Reading with Luis Buñuel
Early in My Last Sigh, Luis Buñuel speaks of the book as a “semi-autobiography where I wander from the subject like a wayfarer in a picaresque novel seduced by the charm of the unexpected intrusion, the unforeseen story”. As Buñuel shows elsewhere in this same book, literature ran through his life from beginning to end. It was thus not at all surprising that he would use a literary reference to explain, quite accurately, the nature of his memoirs. But there is more. When one reads further and comes upon the famous chapter “Pro and Con”, one realises that this seemingly general allusion to picaresque literature is in fact based on particular books Buñuel had read, such as the novels El Lazarillo de Tormes, El Buscón (The Swindler) and his beloved Gil Blas.
Luis Buñuel is without a doubt one of the most analysed directors in film history. The immense attention paid to his work has yielded a highly-detailed map of his creative universe. Within this universe, literature occupies a fundamental place from several points of view: becoming Buñuel’s first artistic vocation, before filmmaking; crossing paths with him as cultural currents which would become so decisive for his life and work, as was the case with Surrealism; providing creative methods; serving as the basis of fervently personal literary adaptations in the cinema; and furnishing his films with an inimitable imaginary world embracing everything from entomology to social history, the Marquis de Sade to Karl Marx, and religious mysticism to nineteenth-century literary realism.
This creative universe will be the point of arrival of Reading with Luis Buñuel. Our point of departure will be the books he read. For this purpose we will construct a virtual library of Luis Buñuel out of his own commentaries on the books he read and the documentary traces left by the books he bought and by those preserved in various archives. In this way, an international group of scholars will investigate the connections between Buñuel’s films and the books he read with the hope of extending research into his work and, we hope, casting new light on it. In this sense, we do not rule out letting ourselves “wander” at times as we too become “seduced by the charm of the unexpected intrusion, the unforeseen story”.