Monday, September 03, 2007

The force of few words

We spoke in praise of brevity here not long ago, celebrating the "six-word stories" perhaps best exemplified by Hemingway's classic, "For sale: baby shoes. Never worn."

On Sunday the New York Times Book Review introduced me to another gem of the economical genre: fait divers. Apparently a staple of French newspapers, they are short, complete, succinct tidbits that (as the reviewer notes) reach a kind of sublime poetic quality.

This review examines a collection of faits divers by a previously anonymous writer of is entitled "Novels in Three Lines." But I don't know where the lines break, so these are presented entire:

On the bowling lawn a stroke leveled M. André, 75, of Levallois. While his ball was still rolling he was no more.

A dishwasher from Nancy , who had just come back from Lourdes cured forever of tuberculosis, died Sunday by mistake.

They’re leaving, those Laotian dancers who graced the fair at Marseille; they’re leaving today aboard the Polyn√©sien.

There is no longer a God even for drunkards. Kersilie, of St.-Germain, who had mistaken the window for the door, is dead.”

Lit by her son, 5, a signal flare burst under the skirts of Mme. Roger, of Clichy; damages were considerable.

In Oyonnax, Mlle. Cottet, 18, threw acid in the face of M. Besnard, 25. Love, obviously.

Seventy-year-old beggar Verniot, of Clichy, died of hunger. His pallet disgorged 2,000 francs. But no one should make generalizations.

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