feneon: tweet tweet, he’s got you beat

If Felix Feneon were alive today, he would be the king of the tweet, the master of the micro-blog. Feneon was a Belle Epoque anarchist and dandy with great artistic sensitivity. After avoiding prison through his silver tongued refutation of charges, he ran an art gallery and was the discoverer of Georges Seurat. He was also the first publisher in French of James Joyce.

More importantly with regard to texting and blogging he is known for his news capsules in three lines, also known as novels in three lines which appeared in the Paris daily Le Matin in 1906. These were actual true events usually both tragic and comic simultaneously, a sort of shock and laugh at the violence of every day life written with a lean economy of style that cut to the chase, or rather the jugular of sensation. Some examples of what could be called an anti-Proust style:

Sergeant Pouget was at target practice at the camp in Souges, Gironde. His rifle exploded, injuring him. The reason: dirt in the barrel….

…“I could have done worse!” exultantly cried the murderer Lebret, sentenced at Rouen to hard labor for life.

…With a four-tined pitchfork, farmhand David, of Courtemaux, Loiret, killed his wife, whom he, erroneously, thought unfaithful.

---You might recognize M. Fénéon from Paul Signac's famous portrait of him. At one time it hung in the entryway of The Museum of Modern Art in New York.---click image for source...

—You might recognize M. Fénéon from Paul Signac’s famous portrait of him. At one time it hung in the entryway of The Museum of Modern Art in New York.—click image for source…

…A dozen hawkers who had been announcing news of a nonexistent anarchist bombing at the Madeleine have been arrested.

…A certain madwoman arrested downtown falsely claimed to be nurse Elise Bachmann. The latter is perfectly sane.

…On Place du Pantheon, a heated group of voters attempted to roast an effigy of M. Auffray, the losing candidate. They were dispersed.

What is funny is Feneon’s play on what George Orwell lamented on the idea of debased language, “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” Feneon’s approach was a snarking sincerity, with the clear aim of

eshing exhausted idioms and in the process politicizing human activity.


(see link at end)… His entries were collected in an album by his mistress Camille Plateel and only discovered after Fénéon’s death. His work for the paper took the form of very short summaries of news not deemed worthy of longer treatment, often provincial crimes and scandal. What distinguishes each of these short pieces is not their subject matter, but the brilliance of their construction and the concision with which each tiny but perfect narrative is expressed. They contain all the literary elements of works much longer.
Take this one:

His sheaves were often set on fire. Pinard, of Coligny, Loiret, kept watch, armed. Pénon passed by; firebug or not, he caught the bullet.

Only three sentences but with place, character and plot.
And this:

The corpse of the sixtyish Dorlay hung from a tree in Arcueil, with a sign reading, “Too old to work.”

Down to one sentence, but now adding social commentary.

“To die like Joan of Arc!” cried Terbaud from the top of a pyre made of his furniture. The firemen of Saint-Ouen stifled his ambition.

These are the literary equivalent of painted miniatures. Read More:http://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/novels-in-three-lines-by-felix-feneon-guest-review-by-alex-pheby/

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