Felix Feneon’s Novels in Three Lines

BY DAVID BLOMENBERG, Poetry Editor

productIn trolling through a bookstore today (where I overheard someone looking for where the Paramilitary Romance section was–quoi??) I found a long-lost novel recently resuscitated by NYRB, who have a fantastic series of high-quality unjustifiably obscure novels. Feneon, who carefully avoided the limelight, compiled this experimental book, called Novels in Three Lines,from anonymous bits of reportage from newspapers of France in 1906, The result sounds like a series of unrealized Edward Gorey captions ranging from the tragic to the bemusing, many in the out-of-date passive voice or with strange inversions:

“Napoleon Gallieni, a stonecutter, broke his neck falling down the stairs. He may have been pushed. In any case, he was taken to the morgue.”

“The sinister prowler seen by the mechanic Gicquel near Herblay train station has been identified: Jules Menard, snail collector.”

“There was a gas explosion at the home of Larrieux, in Bordeaux. He was injured. His mother-in-law’s hair caught on fire. The ceiling caved in.”

In the vicinity of Noisy-sur-Ecole, M. Louis Delillieau, 70, dropped dead of sunstroke. Quickly his dog Fido ate his head.”

“Catherine Rosello of Toulon, mother of four, got out of the way of a freight train. She was then run over by a passenger train.”

“A ruling by the mayor of Angers concerning parades forbids union banners, songs not of a liturgical order, and canes.”

And finally: “Eugene Perichot, of Pailles, near Saint-Maixent, entertained at his home Mme Lemartrier. Eugene Dupuis came to fetch her. They killed him. Love.”

Novels in Three Lines by Felix Feneon. NYRB Books, ISBN 978-1-59017-230-8