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Refute Kant Using Pedantry and “Sadism”

If I were so inspired, I could challenge any one of my classmates to a debate on any of the daily lessons. I would call his name, he would stand up, I would announce my challenge and ask him a question. The language of these jousts was strictly medieval: “Contra te! Super te!” (Against you! Above you!) “Vis cento?” (Do you want to bet a hundred?) “Volo!” (Yes!) At the end of the tourney, the professor designated a winner, and both combatants went back to their seats.

I also remember my philosophy course where the professor, smiling with pity and compassion, explained the doctrines of “poor” Kant, who was so lamentably deceived in his metaphysical reasoning. We took notes frantically, because in the next class the professor often called on a student and demanded: “Refute Kant for me!” If the student had learned his lesson well, he could do it in two minutes.


It was in Calanda that I had my first encounters with death, which along with profound religious faith and the awakening of sexuality constituted the dominating force of my adolescence. I remember walking one day in the olive grove with my father when a sickeningly sweet odor came to us on the breeze. A dead donkey lay about a hundred yards away, swollen and mangled, serving as a banquet for a dozen vultures, not to mention several dogs. The sight of it both attracted and repelled me. Sated, the birds staggered about the cadaver, unable to take to the air. (The peasants never removed dead animals, convinced that their remains were good for the soil.) I stood there hypnotized, sensing that beyond this rotten carcass lay some obscure metaphysical significance. My father finally took hold of my arm and dragged me away.

Another time, one of our shepherds was killed by a knife in the back during a stupid argument. There was an autopsy, performed in the chapel in the middle of the cemetery by the village doctor, assisted by the barber. Four or five of the doctor’s friends were also present. I managed to sneak in, and as a bottle of brandy passed from hand to hand, I drank nervously to bolster my courage, which had begun to flag at the sounds of the saw grinding through the skull and the dead man’s ribs being broken, one by one. When it was all over, I was blind drunk and had to be carried home, where I was severely punished, not only for drunkenness but for what my father called “sadism.”


While we’re making the list of bêtes noires, I must state my hatred of pedantry and jargon. Sometimes I weep with laughter when I read certain articles in the Cahiers du Cinéma, for example. As the honorary president of the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica in Mexico City, I once went to visit the school and was introduced to several professors, including a young man in a suit and tie who blushed a good deal. When I asked him what he taught, he replied, “The Semiology of the Clonic Image.” I could have murdered him on the spot.


Imaginatively speaking, all forms of life are equally valuable—even the fly, which seems to me as enigmatic and as admirable as the fairy.


… what’s always intrigued me about the behavior of heretics is not only their strange inventiveness, but their certainty that they possess the absolute truth. As Breton once wrote, despite his aversion to religion, the surrealists had “certain points of contact” with the heretics.

—Luis Buñuel, from his autobiography, My Last Sigh

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