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Hemingway Adventure

Madrid, Spain (second day)

Madrid, Spain 
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Horses were frequent casualties at fights. Now they wear heavy padding.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureHemingway, Spain and bullfighting are inseparable. After his visit in 1923 in which he wanted to live where the bullfighters lived, he was, as you might say, hooked.

He returned year after year. The bullfighter first appears in his books in The Sun Also Rises and, a few years later, in an exhaustive aficionado's guide called Death in the Afternoon, which James Michener called a kind of Bible of bullfighting. It still is one of the best books on this arcane art.

Hemingway returned to the subject in 1959, when he criss-crossed the country to chronicle the series of mano a mano (one-to-one) contests between two leading matadors. Life magazine had commissioned a 10,000-word piece, but he turned in a first draft of 120,000 words, reduced to 45,000 after his death, and published in 1985 as The Dangerous Summer.

Whatever I feel about bullfighting, I can't come to Spain and avoid it. I decide to follow the advice Hemingway gives in the opening chapter of Death in the Afternoon.

If those who read this decide with disgust that it is written by someone who lacks their ... fineness of feeling I can only plead that this may be true. But whoever reads this can truly make such a judgement when he, or she, has seen the things that are spoken of and knows truly what their reactions to them would be.

So here goes.

Thirty minutes south of Madrid, in flat hot countryside, is a farm where bulls are bred for the ring. It is owned by José Antonio Hernández Tabernilla, a lawyer whose family has bred them since 1882. He has records that trace the ancestry of each bull as far back as 1905.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Madrid, Spain (second day)
  • Country/sea: Spain
  • Place: Madrid
  • Book page no: 110

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