The End of Oulipo?

The End of Oulipo? My book (co-authored with Lauren Elkin), published by Zero Books. Available everywhere. Order it from Amazon, or find it in bookstores nationwide. The End of Oulipo

Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

Available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and direct from this site:


Translate This Book!

Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com

You Say

Group Reads

The Tunnel

Fall Read: The Tunnel by William H. Gass

A group read of the book that either "engenders awe and despair" or "[goads] the reader with obscenity and bigotry," or both. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Naked Singularity

Summer Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Life Perec

Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

Starting March 2011, read the greatest novel from an experimental master. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Last Samurai

Fall Read: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

A group read of one of the '00s most-lauded postmodern novels. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Tale of Genji

The Summer of Genji

Two great online lit magazines team up to read a mammoth court drama, the world's first novel.

Your Face Tomorrow

Your Face This Spring

A 3-month read of Javier Marias' mammoth book Your Face Tomorrow

Shop though these links = Support this site


Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

New Books
Here are ten of my favorite moments from these hugely interesting letters.


Interviews from Conversational Reading

New Books
See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • A Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

But Why Is It Called The Exterminating Angel?

Nice essay about a great film, perhaps Bunel’s best. But can anyone tell me why the name The Exterminating Angel?

The plot is easy to summarize, though the characters’ motivations remain mysterious. Buñuel describes it as “the story of a group of friends who have dinner together after seeing a play, but when they go into the living room after dinner, they find that for some inexplicable reason they can’t leave.” For equally inexplicable reasons, after preparing dinner for the guests, all but one of the servants feel compelled to flee the mansion. Trapped in the living room, the guests soon begin to panic. The narrative places us in the same position as the guests, puzzling over why they can’t leave, how they might escape, and what it all means.

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. The Angel Esmeralda In case you forgot, next week Scribner’s is publishing 9 DeLillo stories from between 1979 and 2011 as The Angel Esmeralda. John Banville sez: The...
  2. A Better Angel by Chris Adrian Review After reading The Children’s Hospital, I quickly concluded that I should pay attention to each new book published by Chris Adrian, so I took note...
  3. A Nabokov Book Called Think, Write, Speak . . . . . . plus thousands of pages of other Nabokov projects you’ve never heard of. We’ve got the goods at The Constant Conversation. ...
  4. New Book: Emma Donoghue's Room When I first read the premise of Room (narrated by a little boy who has only ever lived in a single room) it immediately sounded...
  5. Pynchon at 13 Pynchon enters The New York Times best-selling fiction list at #13. This link also includes an artist’s extrapolation forward from a high school yearbook photo...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

10 comments to But Why Is It Called The Exterminating Angel?

  • Gs

    Dramaturgical pretense?

  • P.

    There’s something about accusing somebody of being theatrical while also outdoing them by incorrectly using the word ‘dramaturgical.’ Really is.

    As for the title, when he’s not directly referencing a character or a textual source (Viridiana, Tristna, Belle de Jour, et al), Buñuel will frequently resort to senselessness, sometimes a kind of senselessness that seems to suggest some deeper sense even as it has none, like Le phantôme de la liberté or Un chien andalou or L’age d’or. What, after all, is the titular ‘discreet charm’ of the bourgeoisie? Or the obscure object of desire?

  • Michael

    I haven’t seen the film, but I imagine the title refers either to the angel that murdered the firstborn of all the Egyptians (Exodus), or maybe the angel that slaughtered Senacharib’s army in their sleep (Book of Judges).

    So there may be some connection between a dinner party and the Passover meal. But being trapped in a living room, unable to leave? Beats me.

    • spencer shears

      That’s what I was investigating. You’re right. there’s a DH Lawrence line ‘It is the three strange angels/admit them, admit them’. Also the angels that visited Lot in Sodom (and had an odd reception by some unfriendly townfolk) and the angel who held the sword up to Baalam as he was about to go and curse the Jews at the pay of Ba’alak, and lets not forget the angel who stood at the entrance of Gan Eden to bar Adam and Eve’s return AFTER they had eaten of the Tree of Knowledge, thereby losing ‘Life’ (cross reference Baudelaire ‘Litany of Satan). Biblical ‘angels’ cerubim, seraphim, oophim etc (all the various layers in the pantheon) are NOT renaissance putti!!! Anyway, I was asking because I’m calling my new company ‘Exterminating Angel’ because I, like angel Mikhail, Exterminate Clutter. No, I’m not a nice guy who holds these crazy hoarding hands and pretends to ‘organize’. I call in dumpsters and clean the place out, just wanted to make sure that ‘Exerminating Angel’ didn’t have any neonazi skinhead stuff attached.
      Da Svetanya
      Spencer Amos Shears

  • Birne

    IMDB has this to say:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056732/faq
    Luis Buñuel had originally called it The Outcasts of Providence Street. Then, renaming it El ángel exterminador after he had seen the name from an unfinished play in which his friend José Bergamín was writing at the time.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056732/trivia
    The title was taken from a friend of Buñuel, José Bergamin, who was writing a play with that title but never finished it. When Buñuel wanted to title his film, he asked for the rights of the title from his friend, but he answered that there was no trouble, because it was taken from the Bible, the Book of Revelations.

  • Matt

    The Exterminating Angel is a name for the angel Abaddon, the angel of the abyss and king of the locusts in Revelation 9:7-11. The text of the Vulgate gives him 3 names: in Hebrew Abaddon, in Greek Apollyon, in Latin Exterminans. That might suggest that Buñuel himself is the angel, casting the characters into an abyss of their own decadence – with no possibility of exit.

  • Richard

    Un Chien Andalou is not, I would argue, senseless. You might accuse him of obscurity with that one, but not senselessness. The Andalusian dog of the title is reportedly Federico Garcia Lorca. Lorca, Bunuel, and Dali were “friends” for a time, but then, as the story is told, Bunuel and Dali paired off, so to speak, and ganged up against Lorca, mercilessly making fun of him for, among many other things, his “feyness” (and you can read that as “his homosexuality”; I do). Lorca, whom they saw as a bit of a “hillbilly,” if you will, or “gypsy,” had also spent the early part of his career celebrating the Andalusian folk songs, dance, and art, and the cante jondo (deep song) and romancero gitano (gypsy ballads).

    At any rate, Un Chien Andalou is a coded attack on Lorca. Some sources (the ubiquitous, and, um…often ridiculous?) Wikipedia states that Lorca “perhaps erroneously” “interpreted it” this way.

    Some say Lorca was in love with Dali; at any rate, their attachment/friendship is usually described as “passionate” and quite intense. That is, until Bunuel came along and apparently stepped in between them.

    This is perhaps way off point, but I for some reason felt the need to at least “defend” that title. Cruel? Perhaps. Senseless? I would disagree.

  • Richard

    P.S. Jacques de Sores as source of that particular title makes complete sense to me in light of the film.

  • [...] The Raft Of The Medusa, but another writer friend of Buñuel’s had used The Exterminating Angel (a reference to Abaddon (in Hebrew), or Exterminus (in Latin) who was the King of the Locusts in Revelations, and [...]

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>