This blog was begun in 2008 to keep track of my research into the world of bullfighting following my essay for Prospect magazine on the topic. (To read that essay, see the ‘Page’ tab on the right hand toolbar, alongside pages on the author, the structure of the bullfight, a more scientific piece on the nature of the Spanish fighting bull, pages on the ethics and the aesthetics of bullfighting, and my contact details.) Two other posts I would mention here are this one on the popularity of bullfighting in Spain and the often quoted ‘Gallup’ polls, and also this one on the 533 famous professional bullfighters killed in the ring in the past three centuries.
Since then I have watched hundreds of bullfights, run the bulls myself in Pamplona dozens and in a dozen other towns such as Cuéllar and San Sebastián de los Reyes. I’ve fought alongside matadors in the arena myself and wrote the first two years of those experiences as a national book award shortlisted memoir, Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight.
The book was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2011 and listed as essential reading for both the Summer and Christmas in the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph. As the reviewers said,
“Complex and ambitious, compelling and lyrical.” Mail on Sunday *****
“An engrossing introduction to Spain’s ‘great feast of art and danger’. Brilliantly capturing a fascinating, intoxicating culture” Sunday Times
“A compelling read, unusual for its genre, exalting the bullfight as pure theatre.”Sunday Telegraph
“He did not expect to fall in love with bullfighting, but then he had his eyes opened by the beauty, dignity and art of the sport.” The Times
“Thrilling. An engrossing introduction to bullfighting.” Financial Times
“An informed piece of work on a subject about which we are all expected to have a view.”Daily Mail
“Fantastic. A fascinating insight into a world we know little about but are quick to judge.” Metro
“An informative and breathtaking volume of gonzo journalism” The Herald (Scotland)
“Intoxicating. Pulses with the writer’s love of the world and the people he has found himself among.” The Australian (Australia)
“A thoughtful, well-researched and deeply felt investigation… vivid evocations of men who risk their lives in a beautiful, vulgar battle with the bulls.” The Prague Post (Czech Republic)
“An entertaining account which seeks a demonstration of the values which distinguish bullfighting from butchery.” The Spectator
“Particularly good. Transposes spectacle into words with great success, conveying the drama with eloquence and precision.” Literary Review
“Acknowledges the morally questionable nature of the bullfight. Interesting explorations of fear, bravery and drive.” League Against Cruel Sports
“A larger than life character. Hugely enjoyable and easy read. Moving and instructive.” Club Taurino of London
“One of the most engaging books on the Bulls I have ever read. Feel every failure, every success, every thrill.” Taurine Bibliophiles of America
They also say,
“Although Fiske-Harrison develops a taste for the whole gruesome spectacle, what makes the book work is that he never loses his disgust for it.” (Daily Mail), “It’s to Fiske-Harrison’s credit that he never quite gets over his moral qualms about bullfighting.” (Financial Times), “Uneasy ethical dilemmas abound, not least the recurring question of how much suffering the animals are put through.” (Sunday Telegraph), “Fiske-Harrison admits that with each of his fights he knows more, not less fear. When he kills his first and only bull he feels not triumph but overwhelming sadness for a life taken.” (Mail on Sunday) and “The question of whether a modern society should endorse animal suffering as entertainment is bound to cross the mind of any casual visitor to a bullfight. Alexander Fiske-Harrison first tussled with the issue in his early twenties and, as a student of both philosophy and biology, has perhaps tussled with it more lengthily and cogently than most of us.”(Literary Review)
The website of the book is here for full reviews.
What is on this blog is for those who have read the book and wish to go even further into the world of the bulls…