Stan of Sentence first has an enjoyable post on the linguistic aspects of Luis Buñuel’s autobiography; the first quote, on finding a title for The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, is well worth reading, but I want to pass along the second one. The scene is the Spanish Civil War; Buñuel has left Madrid for Geneva on official business, but he is stopped at the border by “three somber-faced anarchists” who refuse to accept his identification:
Now the Spanish language is capable of more scathing blasphemies than any other language I know. Curses elsewhere are typically brief and punctuated by other comments, but the Spanish curse tends to take the form of a long speech in which extraordinary vulgarities – referring chiefly to the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, not to mention the Pope – are strung end to end in a series of impressive scatological exclamations. In fact, blasphemy in Spain is truly an art; in Mexico, for instance, I never heard a proper curse, whereas in my native land, a good one lasts for at least three good-sized sentences. (When circumstances require, it can become a veritable hymn.)
It was with a curse of this kind, uttered in all its seemly intensity, that I regaled the three anarchists from Port Bou. When I’d finished, they stamped my papers and I crossed the border. (What I’ve said about the importance of the Spanish curse is no exaggeration; in certain old Spanish cities, you can still see signs like “No Begging or Blaspheming – Subject to Fine or Imprisonment” on the main gates. Sadly, when I returned to Spain in 1960, the curse seemed much rarer; or perhaps it was only my hearing.)
I’d like to see a contest between a traditional Spaniard and a Russian master of the triple-decker curse.