One of the most famous American novelists, short story writers and essayists, Earnest Hemingway, spent much time during his life, researching the nature of ancient bullfighting tradition. From his first bullfighting fiesta in Pamplona of 1923, he became an aficionado of the spectacle and this passion chased him throughout his life and even after his suicide in 1961, two tickets to Pamplona were found in his desk drawer.
The first of Hemingway's bullfighting books, The Sun Also Rises, fictionalizes Pamplona Fiesta of 1923 and discovers the writer's profound knowledge of corrida, though this is Death in the Afternoon (1932) that deals exclusively with the topic of bullfighting, discussing its metaphysical, ritualistic, aesthetic and cultural aspects. The book covers the scenes of death of about one thousand and five hundred bulls, more than eighty pictures of corrida de toros, a glossary of terms, associated with the bullring and three appendixes.
The theme of bullfighting allowed Hemingway to look deeper into the concept of violent death and show it to the reader. In fact, Death in the Afternoon is an impressive interlacement of materials, including a comprehensive analysis of work of the most known matadors in the 1920s, social and psychological analyses of matadors and crowds? behavior.
The Dangerous Summer is an account of the 1959 season of bullfighting in Spain; at the same time, it is the last of Hemingway's bullfighting books, written at the age of sixty. The book captures the moments of the most brutal fights and shows a drama of bullfighting as a competition between two matadors, brothers-in-law, trying to outdo each other in each consecutive fight. The Dangerous Summer is also one of Hemingway's bullfighting books, revealing a complex and personal self-portrait of the writer himself.
Hemingway featured bullfighting not only in his books. ?The Undefeated? is one of Hemingway's bullfighting stories, written before The Sun Also Rises; even earlier, some articles were published in Toronto Star Weekly, explaining the bullfight to the English-speaking world. Some stories have probably never been published, like a previously unknown story and a handwritten letter, ascribed to Earnest Hemingway and found only in 2004. The literary samples gave rise to a literary dispute whether to publish the writings or not. The letter and story ?My Life in the Bull Ring With Donald Ogden Stewart? are dedicated to a bullfighting incident, evolving Donald Ogden Stewart, a well-known American author at the time.
The reviews of Hemingway's bullfighting books were controversial; many critics praised a value of Death in the Afternoon, while the others were pitiless in their attitudes. The New Yorker announced the book ?an act of professional suicide? and Max Eastman's ?Bull in the Afternoon? (a kind of parody to Death in the Afternoon) declared that the book was full of ?juvenile romantic sentimentalizing over a rather lamentable practice of the culture of Spain.? Nevertheless, later critics, being more impressed by the book, considered it an ?indispensable reading?. Even if you do not like bullfighting, it is worth reading Hemingway's bullfighting books, at least to see how he puts the ?tragedy? of it in words.