The Australian reviews my book: Death in the afternoon revisited by a beginner bullfighter

As an Australian citizen (dual-nationality with my British citizenship), I am very pleased to see that their best-selling national newspaper, The Australian has reviewed my book Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight in this weekend’s edition (online here: Death in the afternoon revisited by a beginner bullfighter | The …).

I think that the author, Matthew Clayfield, who refers heavily to Ernest Hemingway’s Death In The Afternoon as a strongancestral influence to my book has got it largely right – including in his criticisms.) Especially in his line on my ethical misgivings about bullfighting in the book:

While Fiske-Harrison eventually dismisses his qualms, it is difficult to read his final chapter, “La escotada” – the thrust of the matador’s sword – without getting a sense that his year with the bulls has only deepened their mystery. It certainly hasn’t put an end to his concerns. Or, one suspects, his searching for an answer.

I should add here, just to clarify, that despite press reports to the contrary, my talk at Blackwell’s Bookstore in Oxford has not been ‘threatened’ as such, and neither have I with regards to the talk. This was a miscommunication somewhere in the chain, as was the in-hindsight preposterous idea that the Thames Valley Police were aware of this and had failed to act.

I have myself received “death-threats” on this blog and elsewhere – although I have always found that phrase a little melodramatic, as I am neither dead nor feeling in the least threatened. Which is why I delete them, forget them and sleep easy at night. (Well, not quite: I dream, almost constantly, about bulls. My strangest – and most moving – dream about them opening chapter twenty of Into The Arena.)

Anyway, I will be talking at Blackwell’s at 7pm on Thursday, February 9th.

Alexander Fiske-Harrison

The photo of my one and only “bullfight” is enclosed below (Photo: Andy Cooke). A full discussion of the ethics – or lack of – in bullfighting is the next post in this blog.

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  1. Dr. Chris Blakey says:

    As an [East] Oxford resident I have followed with much interest the debate in the local press following your postponed talk at Blackwells. I would very much like to offer you my support and let you know that not everyone is anti-bullfight. I am an aficionado of the corrida and am member of a Club Taurin in a small village in south west France. Every summer the village has a week long festival which now includes 3 corridas with mise à mort, plus several types of course landaise and so forth. The village even has its own version of the Pamplona bull running! With my French in-laws I have attended the bullfights every year for at least the last 20 years. I have translated into english for the club their explanatory pamphlets destined for those [tourists] new to the bullfight. I attend each year the Corridas in Dax and as I also have family in Madrid I have had the privilege to visit and see corridas at Las Ventas.

    I appreciate that it is difficult to explain the real attraction of the corrida to those who have never experienced one. I find that each occasion can produce a roller-coaster of emotions. From fear, wonder, appreciation of beauty and bravery, excitement, awe and, it has to be said, even horror at times. I will continue to attend the corrida whenever I can, because as I try to explain to others, each time I learn about and appreciate something new.

    I wanted to attend your talk next week on the 9th Feb, but I shall then be in France … where, having read your book, I will no doubt attempt to explain to my family the controversy it has provoked over here in Oxford!


  2. Thank you for this. It is indeed a hard thing to explain, and, as you say, sometimes to witness. I hope you enjoy the book. AFH

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