you need to commit a murder?”
I needed to commit a rape.”
‘Félix Fénéon (1861-1944) was a French anarchist, editor, and art critic in Paris during the late 1800’s. Born in Turin, he moved to Paris at the age of 20 to work for the Ministry of Defense. He attended the Impressionist exhibition in 1886, later coining the term “Neo-Impressionism” to define the movement led by Georges Seurat. He was the first French publisher to publish James Joyce. In 1892, the French police searched his apartment, claiming him to be an active anarchist. That summer, along with other intellectuals and artists, Fénéon was placed on trial, a case which is now know as The Trial of the Thirty. Although the charges were dismissed, he was discharged from the Ministry of Defense. Despite the discharge the police didn’t believe in Fénéon’s innocence. Once the prefect told Mme Fénéon who came to complain that the police continued shadowing her husband, “Madam, I’m sorry to say this, but you’ve married a killer.'”
‘Decades before the rise of “flash fiction,” Félix Fénéon mastered the art of flash nonfiction in the 1,220 short items he wrote for a Paris newspaper in 1906. Collected and published in book form after his death, Fénéon’s miniature masterpieces of irony and suspense are a tour de force of Pointillist prose. From adultery, murder, revenge, and traffic accidents to tax collection, labor unrest, suicides, and the occasional well-deserved celebration, daily life in France a century ago was as unexpectedly comic and tragic as anywhere else. But only a cultural figure as central yet self-effacing as Fénéon — quiet dandy and secret anarchist, champion of Seurat and first publisher of Lautréamont, translator of Poe and Jane Austen — could have transformed newspaper hackwork into a modernist mosaic that captures the particular details of a place and an age with such exquisite timing and humor. Novels in Three Lines not only anticipates literary “ready-mades” like Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project and Andy Warhol’s a: a novel; it is a unique artifact from the golden age of the newspaper and a window into France in 1906 on the cusp of modernity.’ — from The Anarchist Encyclopedia
Scratching it with a hair-triggered revolver, Mr. Ed… B… removed the end of his nose, in the Vivienne police station.
Falling from a scaffolding at the same time as Mr. Dury, stone-mason, of Marseille, a stone crushed his skull.
Louis Lamarre had neither work nor lodging; but he did have a few coppers. he bought a quart of kerosene from a grocer in Saint Denis, and drank it.
A madwoman of Puechabon (Herault), Mrs. Bautiol, nee Herail, used a club to awaken her parents-in-law.
At finding her son Hyacinth, 69, hanged, Mrs. Ranvier, of Bussy-Saint-Georges, was so depressed she couldn’t cut the rope.
In Essoyes (Aube), Bernard, 25, bludeoned Mr. Dufert, who is 89, and stabbed his wife. He was jealous.
In Brest, thanks to a smoker’s carelessness, Miss Ledru, all done up in tulle, was badly burned on thighs and breasts.
In Djiajelli, a thirteen-year-old virgin, propositioned by a lewd rake of ten, did him in with three knife-blows.
Scissors in hand, Marie le Goeffic was playing on a swing. So that, falling, she punctured her abdomen. In Bretonneau.
Not finding his daughter of 19 austere enough, the Saint-Etienne jeweler Jallat killed her. He still, it is true, has eleven other children.
“What! all those children perched on my wall?” With eight shots, Mr. Olive, a Toulon property-owner made them scramble down, covered with blood.
Marie Jandeau, a handsome girl well known to many gentlemen of Toulon, suffocated in her room last night, on purpose.
A Nancy dishwasher, Vital Frerotte, recently returned from Lourdes forever cured of tuberculosis, died, on Sunday, by mistake.
Miss Verbeau did manage to hit Marie Champion, in the breast, but she burned her own eye, for a bowl of vitriol is not an accurate weapon.
Felix Feneon, art critic
‘As soon as Félix Fénéon appeared at the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in 1886, at which Seurat’s La Grande Jatte was shown, he immediately estimated the historical importance of the new art technique. The future generations will remember 1886, because the age of Manet and Impressionism had come to its logical end and the age of Neo-Impressionism began, stated Félix Fénéon.
‘Neo-Impressionism was the term, introduced by him to denote the new movement, it showed on one hand its connection with Impressionism, which experimented with light and color, and on the other hand denoted the new style with its ‘conscious and scientific’ approach towards the problems of color and light. The ‘bull confusion’, so Fénéon called the reaction of the public to the unusual technique of Seurat, Signac and other Pointillists.
‘Actually he was the only critic who “proved capable of articulating an appreciation of Seurat’s picture, and the new method of painting it exemplified, in words notable for their objective tone.” (Hajo Düchting. Seurat. The Master of Pointillism.) Félix Fénéon defined to the public the idea that stood behind the new techniques,
‘“If one looks at any uniformly shaded area in Seurat’s Grande Jatte, one can find on every centimeter of it a swirling swarm of small dots which contains all the elements which comprise the color desired. Take that patch of lawn in the shade; most of the dots reflect the local colors of the grass, others, orange-colored and much scarcer, express the barely perceptible influence of the sun; occasional purple dots establish the complementary color of green; a cyanine blue, necessitated by an adjacent patch of lawn in full sunlight, becomes increasingly dense closer to the borderline, but beyond this line gradually loses in intensity… Juxtaposed on the canvas but yet distinct, the colors reunite on the retina: hence we have before us not a mixture of pigment colors but a mixture of variously colored rays of light.”
‘Fénéon’s love for art was absolute, and even formed his political tastes. The failure by the “bourgeois” society to understand the real artists, its admiration with commonplace hacks, ‘sugary masters of schools and academies’, and its accusation of new and fresh trends — all this was enough for Fénéon to justify the destruction of that society. Fénéon approved of Anarchistic propaganda, even its extreme forms, which called for action using bombs.’ — Jeanne Picq
Novels in Three Lines
Translated and with an introduction by Luc Sante
New York Review of Books (August 2007)
Novels in Three Lines collects more than a thousand items that appeared anonymously in the French newspaper Le Matin in 1906 — true stories of murder, mayhem, and everyday life presented with a ruthless economy that provokes laughter even as it shocks. This extraordinary trove, undiscovered until the 1940s and here translated for the first time into English, is the work of the mysterious Félix Fénéon. Dandy, anarchist, and critic of genius, the discoverer of Georges Seurat and the first French publisher of James Joyce, Fénéon carefully maintained his own anonymity, toiling for years as an obscure clerk in the French War Department. Novels in Three Lines is his secret chef-d’oeuvre, a work of strange and singular art that brings back the long-ago year of 1906 with the haunting immediacy of a photograph while looking forward to such disparate works as Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project and the Death and Disaster series of Andy Warhol.
‘Fénéon’s three-line news items, considered as a single work, represent a crucial if hitherto overlooked milestone in the history of modernism…. They are the poems and novels he never otherwise wrote, or at least did not publish or preserve. They demonstrate in miniature his epigrammatic flair, his exquisite timing, his pinpoint precision of language, his exceedingly dry humor, his calculated effrontery, his tenderness and cruelty, his contained outrage. His politics, his aesthetics, his curiosity and sympathy are all on view, albeit applied with tweezers and delineated with a single-hair brush. And they depict the France of 1906 in its full breadth, on a canvas of reduced scale but proportionate vastness. They might be considered Fénéon’s Human Comedy.’
— From the Introduction by Luc Sante
Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde
Paris rend hommage à Félix Fénéon
Sur les traces de l’insaisissable Félix Fénéon
Félix Fénéon: anarchist and aesthetic visionary
Félix Fénéon @ Twitter
Art, anarchism & Félix Fénéon
Félix Fénéon Teaches You How To Write
Felix Feneon Exhibition at the Quai Branly in September 2019
p.s. Hey. ** Corey Heiferman, Hi. Yeah, getting this relatively small grant kind of legitimises the project for future and larger grants, or that’s how it tends to work here. I haven’t thought about Steven Wright in ages. Interesting. What a curious combo: him and Michael. I’ll listen, duh, and thanks. Dude if your downtime will be less down if you spend bits of making those guest-posts, I would not be unhappy. And thanks for the offer/thought! ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. If you guys were quarantined like we are, the police would be able to be very busy bees checking everybody’s forms, etc. But hopefully it won’t come to that. ** Tosh Berman, Thanks about the grant, man. Yeah, I would think there are many poets out there, and hopefully a few good ones, making poetic sense of this unprecedented mess. And I suppose fiction writers, although the beauty/terror thing seems more poetry-suited to me for some reason. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. Oh, cool, about the class’s successful transference into Zoom. I don’t think I had ever even heard of Zoom until about a week ago, and now it’s practically every other word people type. Ha ha, nice joke, even though Parisians aren’t actually power raiding supermarkets (yet). ** Bill, My true pleasure, and it was a big success! You did good, sir. If my Switch doesn’t arrive today, I’m going to ‘kill’ somebody. The French post is in chaos, for understandable reasons, but I need my Switch! Thank you beaucoup re: the Tsai post! You are a saint among d.l.s. ** alex rose, Treat! Oops, but, yeah, there could be sickos in my building easily, I guess. We don’t fraternise in this building. Apart from one asshole on the first floor who started screaming hysterically at me — ‘Hey, American!!!! … ‘ — yesterday for dropping a cigarette ash on the fake grass on his ‘veranda’. Enjoy home life. A friend of mine was wherever Gaahl’s gallery is a while back and went in to look at the show and was telling the guy behind the desk that he liked the show when he suddenly realised the guy he was talking to was fucking Gaahl! Who he said was bizarrely nice! My positivity, and I strangely still have a reasonable amount of mine, is teleporting into you if it hasn’t already arrived. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Two friends of friends of mine have COVID now, so it’s getting real. They’re both fine apart from feeling quite unpleasant. Same here on the outdoors world you described. I’m trying my best to find it fascinatingly and darkly beautiful, which it is among the terrifying aspects. ** Barkley, Hi, Barkley! My Switch is supposed to arrive today, but it was supposed to arrive twice before and didn’t. Serious grr-ing going on. I’ve watched people play ‘Breath of the Wild’, and, yeah, wow. I loved ‘Animal Crossing’ don’t get me wrong, it was just a whole lot too needy for me, or, err, I guess I was the too needy half of the duo. I hope your ‘AC’ arrives today. Maybe we’ll both get lucky. ** Paul Curran, Hi, Paul! Of course I’ve been wondering how you’re holding up down there in your version of this nightmare. Yes, our Japan trip is on hold until further notice. But as soon as both of our coasts are clear, we’re coming. That’s for sure. Ah, I miss how blasé everyone was here. You can’t be blasé here now even if you want to. It’s illegal. Fantastic that you’re able to work on the novel! I’m still waiting for resignation to arrive so I can work. It’s still pretty stressful and weird and anti-concentration here. As of last night, it seemed pretty certain the Olympics will get delayed, at least to believe the news medias, which, of course, one can’t. You take care very big time, my friend! ** Dominik, Hi, Dominik! So very great to see you! I’m okay. It’s super weird. It’s getting very old even though it has hardly started. But I’m fine, seemingly totally healthy, basically myself, I think. Who knows, but I would advise enjoying whatever degree of freedom to move around you have now because this quarantine thing seems like an inevitability. Or maybe not, but it feels that way. Me too, i.e. being home a lot is normal for me, so it’s not as harsh on my end as it is for people for whom socialising and clubbing and stuff is life’s bread and butter. Oh, shit, about your brother’s eviction. I think it’s illegal to evict people in France. Our rent payment is supposedly cancelled this month, although I’ll believe it when the first of the month rolls around. Good that you guys can be together, and chances are he’s okay, health-wise. Or so my optimism tells me. Zac’s good, or he was yesterday, so I imagine he still is. We’re stuck with phone calls only at the moment. Yes, my new novel has an American publisher, and I should be able to officially announce that this week. So that’s a relief. Otherwise, everything’s getting cancelled — film screenings, shows, projects. The TV series project was finally killed last week, which is hugely depressing. Now we’re going to try to do it as feature film instead. Not sure at all if that’ll fly. Interesting about your revelation. That’s a good one, I think, as revelations go. Wow, there’s so much to suggest, reading-wise. Too much, obviously. Your list is a good one. Sade, Acker, obviously. Sartre, Camus, de Beauvoir … I wouldn’t start with them. Hm, let me think, or we can dialogue further about it. Have you read Bataille’s ‘Story of the Eye’? If not, that’s a good one. Yeah, I’ll think. Well, it’s so good to see you! Obviously, if it would give you pleasure or any other good thing to hang out and talk/type here, that would be cool for me. Have the best Monday possible! Love, me. ** schlix, Hi, Uli! We can have a ‘who stays positive the longest’ contest. Bernhard is a good remedy. I just restored an old Bernhard Day for the future. I haven’t actually read those books of his, strangely. Huh. I’ll try to order them. Cool. I think the post here must have been re: ‘Wittgenstein`s Nephew’ since that is a huge favorite of mine. Take care! ** Jeff J, Hey, Jeff! Yep, ditto, i.e. excellence incarnate to talk with you. I’m ‘praying’ my Switch arrives today, but I have a bad feeling it won’t. ‘Love in the Afternoon’ is terrific, yeah. There was going to be a big Rohmer retrospective with many rarities here at Forum du Image until, yes, it got cancelled along with everything else. There was going to be a big Pedro Costa retrospective at the Jeu de Plume, which is literally two minutes walk from my apartment, with Costa himself there a lot that got killed too. It was going to be a very rich late winter here. Very best of luck that everything is okay with your cat. Holographic hugs. ** Right. Today I decided to restore this extremely old, dead post from at least a decade ago for the simple reason that Félix Fénéon is so wonderful. See if you start to agree. See you tomorrow.