If you’ve wandered extensively around the Museum of Modern Art, you know this otherwise obscure author, because he’s the subject of a great painting by Paul Signac in which Félix holds a tophat and cane, and offers a flower to… no one visible. Behind him kaleidoscopic colors swirl. Signac invented psychedelia to describe Félix Fénéon – and in this book we learn why. In 1906 Félix worked at a newspaper called Le Matin, where he had a job summarizing obscure news items. This he transformed into a pre-Dadaist (anonymous) art form. Here’s one:
“On the riverbank at Saint-Cloud were found the saber and uniform of Baudet, the soldier who disappeared the 11th. Murder, suicide, or hoax?”
And here’s a second:
“Between Ville-du-Bois and Montlhéry, vagrants beat to a pulp Thomas, a tailor, and emptied his pockets.”
Reading 1066 of these – nimbly translated by Luc Sante – slowly redefines “literature” in one’s mind. The glaring uncertainty of life, its manifold dangers, yet the love one may feel even for a stranger – with no last name – inspire these pieces. Fénéon had a sense of humor like no one else on earth.