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Novels in Three Lines

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  528 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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 tim...more
Paperback, 171 pages
Published August 21st 2007 by NYRB Classics
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New York Review Books - Classics
26th out of 366 books — 324 voters
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Community Reviews

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"On the left shoulder of a newborn, whose corpse was found near the 22nd Artillery barracks, a tattoo: a cannon."

And thus begins the tale by Edgar Alan Poe...what, no. In fact, it is the story complete, published on a regular newsday on 1906 for Le Matin, a popular French broadsheet. Felix Feneon, a writer and intellectual who traveled in circles with the leading radicals of French literati of his time, humbly took a job for less than a year as the author of the faits-divers, a daily column of s...more
In 1906, Felix Feneon, an anarchist on his days off, wrote news items in three carefully crafted lines of one-column typeface. They read like French Haiku.


"If my candidate loses, I will kill myself," M. Bellavoine of Fresquienne, Seine-Inferieure, had declared. He killed himself.

At Saint-Anne beach, in Finistere, two swimmers were drowning. Another swimmer went to help. Finally M. Etienne had to rescue three people.

Harold Bauer and Casals will give a concert today in San Sebastian. Beside
Delightful! Could function as a lifetime of writing prompts. "Pauline Rivera, 20, repeatedly stabbed, with a hatpin, the face of the inconstant Luthier, a dishwasher of Chatou, who had underestimated her."
Jan 23, 2010 Jim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: france
What a strange book! Read this one, and you will reconsider the whole notion of the French being a rarefied and civilized race. Novels in Three Lines consists of nothing hundreds of two- and three-line news pieces, usually bizarre, violent, and occasionally mysterious. Its author, Félix Fénéon (1861-1944) was at one and the same time an anarchist, a litterateur, and a champion of the arts (he discovered Toulouse-Lautrec). Yet, however well connected he was, he preferred to cling to the shadows:...more
Sep 28, 2009 R. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
My Novel in Three Lines:

Free ride to R.M. in a police cruiser Sept. 28 to make positive the I.D. of a prowler he caught breaking into his father's girlfriend's car at 1:30 a.m. A criminal with a fashion statement: the elegant perp's black clothes were offset with a zebra patterned hoodie.


One thing is certain: France in 1906 was a dangerous place for pedestrians and lovers.

Terrorism also was a concern, with bomb threats at just about every juncture (usually a scare tactic: bags of sand, pipes...more
Novels in Three Lines is a very odd book by French anarchist and art critic Félix Fénéon. It is a collection of short news items written anonymously and appearing around the year 1906 in France (the word "news" being "nouvelles" in French and representing both "news" and "novels")written (as Emily Dickinson might have it) at a slant. Most of the news is bad-murders, suicides, some thefts. A lot of politicians in trouble for putting Christ back in the schools. An odd "story line" runs through it...more
Another book I've wanted to read for awhile but had to wait till I needed something to nudge an Amazon order into free shipping. And as much as I enjoyed this, I'm not sure what to make of it-- one of the perils of following a wild hair as it curls and splits, I guess.

Anyhow, this book collects all the short pieces Feneon, an anarchist and intellectual, wrote for a French newspaper in 1906-- I think it's was something like ten months worth, all little bits about the news from all around the coun...more
Siempre me acordaré de que un día un profesor de la carrera nos plantó delante de las narices un texto breve y nos preguntó si era literatura. Era un texto en primera persona sobre unos pobres diablos que estaban a punto de piñarla y a mí me pareció que sí porque tenía la fuerza dramática y la desesperación suficiente como para formar parte de un libro. Yo me imaginé que quizás era un fragmento de una novela de aventuras, pero resultó que era el último mensaje que envió la tripulación del submar...more
Pre-review, 15 May, 01:35:
Oh look! I just finished reading a book, and I'm writing a review for it right away, as opposed to waiting for five or six weeks! That hasn't happened in months. ...

And it won't happen now, because I need to slump down on the floor and pass out in a haze brought on by copious amounts of Cerveza Caguama and miserI mean, get some peaceful beauty sleep so that I may wake up, more devilishly handsome than ever before, and, after calling up the sixty-four girls whose numbers...more
May 25, 2013 S. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fun lovers
Shelves: nyrb, read-in-2008
I thought this was excellent and ahead of its time. Quite the quotidian adventure in the spirit of remaining objective (and ironic) in the face of a tragic, beautiful, banal and ridiculous humanity.

I stay with four stars because I'd be hard-pressed to say it's unwaveringly great. It has its weak moments, too, in which the everyday fails to get beyond the 'so what.'

But even physically, it has a lovely cover and texture.

Very worth reading & keeping one's hands on.
The perfect book for the bathtub. The Right size and you can pick it up anywhere without worrying about the narration. Felix Feneon, a French trouble-maker of the 1900's wrote three lines dealing with crime, murder, suicides, etc. for a daily newspaper. Luc Sante (the author of the incredible collection of essays "Kill All Your Darlings") edited and translated the three-lined text like headlines. Beautifully written with a dark tinge of humor, and yes only three lines!
Ben Loory
short turn-of-the-century news encapsulations about silly french people blowing their heads off and falling into the seine and crap like that. not terrible so much as pointless. tortured sentence structure. reaches for poetry. comes off as not-funny lines from the onion.
A collection of short little articles chronicling the absurd and comic and tragic events of 1904 France. The brevity and soul of a Maupassant, the journalist realism of Zola, in the length of a Tweet.
Before there was flash fiction, or people writing novels through text messaging, or cell phones at all for that matter, there was Félix Fénéon's 'Novels in Three Lines'. In 1906, he wrote began writing these 1,220 news summaries in three lines or less for a Parisian newspaper, mostly about theft and crime, using creative syntax to add new meanings to the events. This book collects those lines, as the title suggests, but the macabre element of each adds a violent twist that leaves me suspicious o...more
Luc Sante's Introduction is Five Stars by itself. Feneon, this fascinating character, is Five Stars also.

People dying on every page. Most of the murders, suicides, accidents and the occasional miracle in 'Novels In Three Lines' could be on today's news, such is human nature. I prefer Feneon's brief descriptions to the Media News as Entertainment shows in this day and age. Today's news reporting would be better if it followed Feneon's format. I don't watch Television or listen to any Radio.

A few...more
Mar 23, 2008 Katherine rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: aspiring writers, fans of history and everyone else
Utterly fascinating and completely unclassifiable. I couldn't put it down. Read individually, the pieces are polished little gems. Read collectively and chronologically they provide an exceptional and somehow intimate portrait of what France was truly like for the ordinary citizen in 1906. Here are three samples that haunt me still:

"Three is the age of Odette Hautoy, of Roissy. Nevertheless, L.Marc, who is 30, did not consider her too young."

"Finding her son, Hyacinthe, 69, hanged, Mme Ranvier,...more
Sergio Frosini
Massì, diamogli il punteggio pieno: libriccino minimo, si legge in un soffio, con un'interessante postfazione storica sull'autore e macabramente divertenti "storie lampo" dal sapore d'antan come queste:

"Nel corso delle indagini sul mistero di Luzarches, il giudice istruttore Dupuy ha interrogato la detenuta Averlant: che però è pazza."

"La sera Blandine Guérin, di Vaucé, si è svestita nelle scale. Poi, nuda come la parete di un’aula scolastica, si è annegata in un pozzo."

"I giudici di Doullens ha...more
Jim Leckband
Predictably, after reading "Novels in Three Lines" by Félix Fénéon, Jim Leckband tries to prove he is witty by writing his review in the same style. He is wrong.
Adam Dalva
A real find - this is a collection of 3 line newspaper reports by the enigmatic Felix Feneon. The introduction by Luc Sante is both illustrative and fantastic (it may be the high-point of the whole book.) Feneon is something of a Zelig figure whose literary output was limited, but the anonymity and fun of this particular form plays to his strengths. Think David Markson mixed with Lydia Davis, and add to that a strongly representative look at early 20th century France. The stories are often hilar...more
Jun 25, 2010 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Alan by: R.M.
this was another recommendation from amazon - but I noticed I'd commented on a thread by RM recommending this book, don't know why I didn't add it then, it looks fantastic. is non fiction, but reads like little novels as the title suggests. Review will follow - I've got four or five books now to catch up with and one day when I finish the editing I'm doing I'll sit down and write them all.
A glimpse of 1906: to break up the monotony of death by passion, poverty or greed, some pilfered telephone cables, assaulted girls and old women alike, or squabbled over the value of a crucifix to schoolchildren. Fires, trains and automobiles menaced human beings. Soldiers were ubiquitous.
Nabokov crossed with Edward Gorey - a witty, macabre delight.
Jeff Bursey
My Amazon review:

None of today's major papers would print the types of obituaries and other news items Feneon wrote in the early years of the 20th century. They are mordant, cynical, joyful over the most bizarre and violent mishaps, attitudes and deaths, and crafted with the precision of a poet.

This book contains roughly one thousand 'novels' or life stories (or death stories) that summarize in the fewest words possible what a person expired of, what a city council fought over (usually religious...more
After reading this book, I have learned that Félix Fénéon was a fairly minor character in fin de siècle France at the turn of the 20th Century. He was a writer, art critic, editor, and translator (of James Joyce's works into French). From Luc Sante's introduction and description of Fénéon and the France in which he lived, I formed the impression that, apart from his political beliefs in anarchism, Fénéon moved through his life flowing with the tide more than swimming against it. He was the frien...more
míol mór
"V. Petit, di Marizy-Sainte-Genevi��ve, nell'Aisne, voleva morire, ma in allegrezza. Cos�� si �� scolato due litri di vino e uno di acquavite, e in effetti �� morto."

Ho scoperto l'esistenza dei romanzi in tre righe, e del loro autore, grazie ad una menzione di Matteo Codignola nel suo Un tentativo di balena: Quel libro parla dello spettacolo teatrale di 15 minuti che Roberto Abbiati ha tratto da Moby Dick (a sua volta una miniaturizzazione non da poco) e Codignola ne approfi...more
Feneon's precise news stories in three lines create a picture into life in France during 1906.

In some ways perhaps we live in an easier world now. Many people committed suicide for various reasons, a great many others were hit by trains, cheating lovers (and innocent bystanders) were in danger of being doused with acid in the streets. The Seine was often the source of bloated corpses and a danger to anyone falling in, as few it seemed were able to get out before joining the legion of the drowned...more

Strano personaggio l’autore (impiegato statale, anarchico, estimatore d’arte, giornalista) e bizzarra raccolta questi romanzi in tre righe. Alcuni sono particolarmente caustici e incisivi:

Probabile opera di un buontempone il messaggio in bottiglia ritrovato a Ostenda, nel quale si annunciava il naufragio della “Speranza” – un tre alberi di Dunkerque.

Il signor Jules Kerzerho era presidente di una società di ginnastica. Il che non gli ha impedito di sfracellarsi tentando di saltare su un tram in c
Felix Feneon isn't the name of a YA author that you've never heard of. He's not even a YA author. Or even someone most people have heard of. However, his strange collection of bite-sized news stories seems oddly timely. Nowadays, even if we watch 24-hr news channels non-stop, we still get our stories in short bursts or news tickers along the bottom of the screen. That Fenon, and most newspapers in France, had sections that featured these "Three Line" news pieces, in 1906 seems almost prophetic....more
I found this book in a list of Luc Sante credits. He translated this book from French to English and wrote the illuminating introduction on the mysterious and intriguing author and translator. Before reading this book, I read an interview in which he discussed his interest in forgotten archived photographs of urban and rural settings. One of the books referenced, "Wisconsin Death Trip", a collection of photos and text from a rural Wisconsin newspaper in the 1800's. At the time, newspapers featur...more
This is a very odd, but strangely fascinating book. Felix Feneon was an anarchist in France at the turn of the old century (1900). He may have also been a government spy. He was also a talent spotter -- 'discovering' James Joyce for the French, for example -- and literary editor. He left very little traces of his life, and that was deliberate. (Spies must be discreet?) But one thing he did was take news items from country newspapers around France and rewrite them as 3-line news 'haikus' that oft...more
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NYRB Classics: Novels in Three Lines, by Félix Fénéon 1 4 Oct 29, 2013 11:09AM  
  • My Fantoms
  • Moravagine
  • Mouchette
  • Pages from the Goncourt Journals
  • Witch Grass
  • The Widow
  • Fatale
  • The Waste Books
  • White Walls: Collected Stories
  • The Pure and the Impure
  • Miserable Miracle
  • Irretrievable
  • A Meaningful Life
  • Amsterdam Stories
  • Sunflower
  • No Tomorrow
  • Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley
  • Selected Stories
Félix Fénéon was a Parisian anarchist and art critic during the late 1800s. He coined the term "Neo-impressionism" in 1886 to identify a group of artists led by Georges Seurat, and ardently promoted them.

The Fénéon Prize was established in 1949 by his wife based on proceeds from the sale of his art collection.
More about Félix Fénéon...
Illustrated Three-Line Novels: Felix Feneon Nouvelles en trois lignes. 2 Silot, a Valet Near Grenoble Mme. Roger

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“A Dunkerque un certo Scheid ha sparato per tre volte alla moglie senza mai riuscire a colpirla. A quel punto ha rivolto l'arma verso la suocera. Centro.” 1 likes
“V. Petit, di Marizy-Sainte-Geneviève, nell'Aisne, voleva morire, ma in allegrezza. Così si è scolato due litri di vino e uno di acquavite, e in effetti è morto.” 1 likes
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