Friday, August 17, 2007

Secret masterpieces

Oh, I must get a copy of Félix Fénéon's Novels in Three Lines, newly translated by Luc Sante for NYRB books: "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."

Here's the featured excerpt from Sante's introduction--sounds pretty amazing, eh?
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.
Temperamentally, I think I am unlikely to take to a literary form of great brevity, but I am hoping that one of these days I will come up with the perfect structural device for a project that can be measured in teaspoonfuls...

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