Nobel prize winner Ernest Hemingway was one of the leading promoters of Bullfighting throughout the world for he wrote not only one but three books on the subject in English. The first one was the novel, FIESTA or THE SUN ALSO RISES, (1924), which became a highly successful film in 1957, with an extraordinary cast: Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Errol Flynn, Mel Ferrer and Eddie Albert.
Eight years later, he published his essay DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON, in which he offered a profound, yet charming study of the Corrida, its history, its development and its significance.
It seems that his intention when writing THE DANGEROUS SUMMER, was to add it as an epilogue to DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON. However, LIFE magazine expressed its interest in publishing it and they asked him for 10,000 words on the duel between the two brothers-in-law who were the top matadors of the day: Luis Miguel Dominguín and Antonio Ordóñez (married to Carmen, the former’s sister).
Hemingway completed his manuscript with a total of 108,746 words and was totally unable to reduce it. He requested help from a writer friend, A.E. Hotchner, who managed to condense it with a great deal of effort to half the size, and Life adopted the judicious decision to publish 42,000 words in three weekly installments of the magazine in September of 1960. Finally, in 1985, twenty-four years after the author’s death, Charles Scribner & Sons published a complete version in book form with an introduction penned by another award-winning writer and aficionado, James Michener.
Hemingway must have enjoyed the summer of 1959 immensely deal as we can see in the photos, travelling from fair to fair, in order to follow these two titans in the rings. It was in the historic fight held in Málaga, on August 14, 1959, when he was finally able to understand the skill and greatness of Dominguín, who he had previously accused of “basing his bullfighting on the use of cheap tricks”.
The photos also reveal his great passion for alcohol and he was not ashamed to drink wine directly out of the bottle, or pull out his hip flask right there in the callejón, and even offer it to the maestro Ordóñez.
Sadly, there was a major gap in his “taurine” life, due to the fact that he had supported the enemies of the Franco cause during the Spanish Civil War and reflected his sentiments in his novel FOR WHOM THE BELLS TOLL. The movie version of this novel (1943), featuring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, was also a major success, but Hemingway could not or did not dare to return to Spain until 1953.
There is no question about his passion for the bulls and for Pamplona’s unique Fiestas of San Fermín, and the capital of the Navarre region has shown its gratitude to the writer by erecting a statue in his honor in the perfect place: at the entrance to the bullring where the mozos and bulls in the encierros run by every morning between July 7th and 14th, year after year.
His passion for the bulls was undeniable and he described it thus: “Only a man with a bull and a piece of red cloth hanging from a stick, can achieve such a high level of emotional and spiritual intensity, and such pure, profound and classic beauty.”