Amanda Bennett: A Year in Zaragoza, Spain

Bulls May 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — psychohistoria @ 9:55 am

Here I am watching a bullfight on television…who would have thought. The truth, though, is that gruesome s it is, bullfighting is an art. I haven’t seen a live one, which must be incredibly different; sitting on a couch and half-watching compared to smelling the blood and seeing the bulls’ pain live is very distant. I unfortunately happened to switch to the fight at the worst part, when the bullfighter is trying to kill the bull.
When Hemingway writes about bullfighting, it sounds so beautiful; in fact, I gave it a second thought only after reading the corrida de toros passages in “The Sun Also Rises” and “Dangerous Summer” – I do love Hemingway’s writing, especially because his bullfights are always perfect. In real life, or perhaps it’s just the modern bullfighters aren’t as good as the toreros of the past, the bull rarely dies on the first try, and they have to end up corning it, poking its nose, and stabbing artlessly…
I have the luxury of changing the channel; I don’t know how I’d handle it in real life. It is sad to see the bull at the end; he comes out so energetic, ready to fight! – and then, banderilla after banderilla, he begins to tire, his tongue starts to loll and hang out, his back gets covered in blood, he stumbles rather tan runs, and the torero really has to work to get him to change…the bull knows that he is going to die, and you can see how he has lost hope and given up. He never really had a chance, but now the fiction that he did has become the reality that he doesn’t.
The bullfights fought on horse – the rejones – are actually much more beautiful. They are a man on a horse, with complete control of his animal, who then stabs a variety of short knives with flags on them into the bulls back until eventually a long sword is used to kill the bull, all without getting of the horse and incorporating beautiful hoof-work. In regular bullfights, at least now, the torero does a few passes with the bull and then the picadores – men with long spears – come out riding armoured horses and just brutally stab the bull, no art to it; the bull runs into the rose, the horse stands there protected as if it didn’t have a 550-kilo animal ramming its horns into its side, and the picador, safe on his high horse, jabs repeatedly and mechanically. I can hardly stand that part, even just watching it on television…the beautiful part is when the unprotected torero, with just his cape, takes on the bull, or in rejones when the vulnerable rejonero is atop his unprotected and gorgeous horse…those parts take talent and art, and could even be called beautiful.
One thing I always love: the outfits, delicately embroidered and worn with arrogance. And in the case of a good bullfighter, the arrogance fits very well.

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