Novels In Three Lines

Praise & Reviews

Layered, ironic, amused, Fénéon’s voice is unmistakable…a little yo-yo of a narrative that gives pleasure no matter how many times it’s flung.
—Marilyn Johnson, New York Times Book Review

[Fénéon] knew how to shape a sentence, how to make three lines breathe, delay a key piece of information, introduce a quirky adjective, hold the necessary verb until last. Just fitting in the requisite facts is a professional skill; giving the whole item form, elegance, wit and surprise is an art…. [Sante] has well conveyed the taut, sprung wryness of the original French.
—Julian Barnes, London Review of Books

In these artfully concise summaries of news events, Feneon, an enigmatic French journalist and publisher, provides a glimpse of a belle epoque that belongs not to artists or intellectuals but to locksmiths, plumbers, seamstresses and the occasional sex offender.
-Los Angeles Times

“In 1906, suspected terrorist, anarchist, and literary instigator Félix Fénéon wrote more than a thousand small bits for the Paris newspaper Le Matin. Each was a bizarre yet enigmatic, fragmentary, often scandalous, report.”
—Steven Heller, imPrint

These fillers, or fait divers,…recount all manner of assault, graft, accident, labor strife, and murder in spare, factually tidy detail…These epigrammatic plots invite being read aloud, as well as other diversions.

Today’s lurid tabloid journalism has nothing on Novel in Three Lines, originally published anonymously in the French daily Le Matin in 1906. The man behind them was one Felix Feneon, part-time anarchist, and they reveal a delight in the fateful cruelties of life: Random shootings, premeditated suicides, and awful robberies were his main fixations. It’s no insult to our own taste for the sensational when we admit to finding Paris the city more fascinating than Paris the woman.
New York Magazine

“The Feneon , like a book of haikus entirely devoted to suicide, murder, fatal accidents, and incestuous sex, is a creepy introduction to the shadowed brain cavity of a Neo-Impressionist who certainly believed in ‘propaganda by the deed’ and may have plotted one or more anarchist assassinations.”
Harper’s Magazine