One languorous afternoon, while browsing through new and old magazines in our cramped reading room upstairs, I recalled Felix Feneon’s Nouvelles en trios lignes, which can either mean “the news in three lines” or “novellas in three lines.” It was very tempting to impersonate Feneon, but duplicity can be an elusive ambition, the work of the master fictionist was not only original in form but also enigmatic as well as troubling in its implications.
What follows is a feeble attempt to condense the news or stories of the day in three lines. Those that exceed Feneon’s maximum only indicate my own inability, and also signify that Feneon, at least for me, is really difficult to clone.
Feneon’s three-line news items are obsessively chiselled and crafted, a precursor to Twitter’s epigrammatic 140 bytes or 20- to 30-word sentences.
Luc Sante, an author and professor at Bard College, wrote that Feneon’s work “heralds the age of mass media, via a sensibility formed by the cadences and symmetries of classical prose.” Feneon’s opus “forecasts a century of statistics, while foregrounding individual quotidian detail; invites speed of consumption while manifesting time-consuming labour of execution .... It is a dry bundle of small slivers of occurrence that lie beneath history, but it represents the whole world, with all its contradictions."