DEATH IN THE AFTEROON
Should Bull Figting be Banned?
By our Author Harold Stephens
I just heard the news that a man died after being gored in the neck during the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona. He was the 25th person to have been killed in the runs since 1924.
Death in the Afternoon was Ernest Hemingway’s book on bullfighting that he wrote in the 1920s. It’s unquestionable the best book on bull fighting ever written. But it was Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises that made the “running of the bulls” popular, although the festival started some 400 years before.
The major event is held July 7-14 in Pamplona, while a small one is held in Arcos de la Fronteria. In each event six wild ferocious bulls and several tame steers run from the corrals at the edge of town, through the streets to the bullring––where the plan is for the six bulls to die at the hands of brave matadors. But sometimes the plan doesn’t quite work out that way. It’s the bull that is victorious.
The question wveryone asks is: “Do you think this tradition should be banned?” Or I could ask, what fool would jump into the street in front of a herd of charging bulls? That’s the same question my mother asked when she read my book Who Needs a Road. It wasn’t in Pamplona that I joined the “running of the bulls.” It was Arcos; but it’s the same thing as in Pamploma. So why did I do it?
It’s a stupid stunt but if you have ever gone to a feria in Spain where there’s wild gypsy music everywhere, flamenco dancing in the streets and with people tossin
g you a leather botas filled with wine to have a drink, you somehow get caught up in the madness, especially when a pretty senoirta next to you asks if you are going to jump into the street. And that’s what I did, and got knocked down but survived and wrote about it in Who Needs a Road. I was making a promotional motor trip around the world for Toyota Motors and Spain was one of my stops.
I had been caught up in bullfighting long before this, however. I first became interested in the corrida, the running of the bulls, when I was doing graduate work at Mexico City Colldge in Mexico City and then later in Spain where I had gone to write the great novel but I got caught up in the corrida and never finished my book. Instead, I guess, I became somewhat of an aficionado. I never missed a Sunday afternoon. They say that in both Mexico and Spain the on thing that starts on time are the bull fights at 4pm.
It was in Seville that I met the American matador John Fulton, He had a large apartment sill with bull fight posters on the walls”and it was at his apartment where I met James Michener. John was sharing the apartment with Bob Varva, a photographere who was there to photogruh the bullls of Michenerrs book, Iberia. Michener stopped often to meet with John to gather information for his book. With Fulton and Michener I did do go the ranch of perhaps Spain’s greatest matador, Juan Belemonte and at a corrida I was with John whne he met with Ernest Hemingway. For those interested, I wrote in detail about my meeting with Michener and John Fulton in Seville in my book The Education of a Travel Writer.
Should the running of the bulls be banned? Ava Gardner answered that question for me. She was at John Futon’s party in Seville when I met her, and at the time she had a crush on a young bullfighter half her age. I had just returned from climbing in New Zealand where I was training with the Hillary expedition, and Ava made mention it while we were dancing. “If you are going to die, why die on a mountain?” she said. “It’s more nobler to die in a bullring.”
They both sound pretty gruesome to me.