Posted by: Ele Quigan | October 1, 2010

‘Death in the Afternoon’ Ernest Hemingway

I haven’t read Hemingway before. Not quite sure why – maybe the thought of books about war (my false assumption) put me off? I can read dark holocaust true account, but the idea of reading about trench warfare makes me sick to my stomach. I guess for some reason I find holocaust horror faceless, where as a young man coming face to face with another and committing to shoot is something else entirely…

But I decided to get over my issue and give it a try.

Hemingway writes this like I’d like to think I could write. A stream of consciousness, several connected thoughts, sometimes bringing together the past, but mostly talking about the present – with tidbits of the future as well. It brought Spain to life, hot, dusty summers. The dark odour of blood and aura of blood lust in the air, but also the glorious anticipation of beauty like that moment you get as the overture starts and the curtain rises at an opera or ballet.

I’m very left, and against animal cruelty – but I find myself conflicted after reading this. and I hate myself for it. I want to experience it, I want to understand if I’ll be revolted or revolted that I secretly enjoy it.

It shows the talent Bullfighters must have. To stand and not be frightened or move while a bull is head down to charge must be phenomenal. The triumph of man over beast with grace in the face of death comes across with a sense of glory and passion.

It’s more of a history of bull fighting of the time, with long comments on the bull fighters, their history, their fame (and how often their fame causes their downfall) but with such a vivid sense of what it must be life to watch. I think it’s interesting to see how some of the specific elements are designed to finish the fight within a certain time, and reduce the amount of pain to deliver to the bull (contrary to what I thought initially). Is it unnecessary? Probably. Is it cultural history? Yes. Does that mean it should continue? I don’t know.

Within a slightly deviated argument, is halal meat – which is animals that are bled to death and blessed prior to being butchered. My understanding is that these days the animals are stunned, but does this defy the purpose? And for those animals that aren’t stunned – does this make it okay? Is it the fact that it is for sustenance rather than sport make it fine?

So what about fox hunting? That’s an english tradition too – does that mean it should continue?

I’m (as per usual) left with a lot of questions and not so many answers – I would like to attend a bullfight (Madrid and Toledo are on my list to visit) and even if I leave after the first bull goes down, I’d still love to bring a piece of what I found in this Hemingway to life for myself.


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