Blood and Sand

Streets of Pamplona Before the Run

I went to Pamplona to run with the bulls and catch a couple of bullfights. I had never been to a bullfight before and didn’t know what to expect. I had rather a detached and academic approach towards the whole affair but I must admit I was fascinated by what I saw and emotionally moved.

To prepare for my journey I brought with me to read, Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway. I have prepared some quotes from the book to accompany the pictures I took. No on can quite explain the experience of bullfighting like Ernest Hemingway. He it the master.

Here I am getting ready to run
Here come the bulls!
Here I am after the Run celebrating with a Hot Milk and Brandy

There are three acts to every bullfight. They are always the same. The first act is where the bull charges the picadors and the matador distracts the bull with his cape. The picador drives the steel of the pic into the neck muscles of the bull to weaken it.

Act two is the banderillas. They are a pair of sticks about three feet long tipped with a harpoon-like shaped steel point at on the end four centimeters long. They are placed two at a time in the humped muscles at the top of the bulls neck as the bull is charging the matador. They are designed to complete the work of slowing the bull down. Four pair are usually put in.

The Bull charges the horse and Picador
The Picador weakens the bull by stabbing it in the neck muscles.
The matador protects the picador by distracting the bull with his cape

“So, I went to Spain to see bullfights and to try to write about them for myself. I thought they would be simple and barbarous and cruel and that I would not like them, but that I would see certain and definite action which would give me the feeling of life and death that I was working for. I found the definite action, but the bullfight was far from simple and I liked it so much that it was too complicated for my then equipment for writing to deal with, and aside from four very small sketches, I was not able to write anything about it for five years and I wish I would have waited ten.”

-Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

The moment of truth

The last act is the sword and the muleta. The muleta is a red cloth folded over a stick. With the muleta the matador masters the bull before going in for the kill. Finally the matador kills the bull by thrusting the sword high between the shoulder blades of the bull.

The coup de grace

“The bullfight is not a sport, that is it is not an equal contest or an attempt at an equal contest between a man and a bull. Rather it is a tragedy, the death of the bull, which is played more or less well by the bull and the man involved, and in which there is danger for the man, but certain death for the bull.”

-Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

Death in the Afternoon

“So far, about morals, I only know what is moral is what makes you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after and judged by those moral standards, which I do not defend, the bullfight is very moral to me because I feel very fine while it is going on and have a feeling of life and death and mortality and immortality, and after it is over I feel very sad but very fine.”

-Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

Blood and Sand
The bull is dragged off by a team of horses
Hemingway’s presence was felt everywhere

All photos by the author except the photos of himself which were taken by his wife, Maureen

The Killers (1946)

Movie Blurb

Burt Lancaster

The Killers (1946) is a better than average film noir based on the Hemingway story of the same name. Starring Burt Lancaster as the prize fighter Ole ‘Swede’ Andreson, Ava Gardner as the femme fatale Kitty, and Edmond O’ Brien as the insurance investigator Reardon. Directed by Robert Siodmak. The first thirteen minutes are pure Hemingway and, in my opinion, the best part of the movie. The rest of the movie is quite good too, but that first part was very impressive. The rest of the movie is an expansion of the original Hemingway story and told in a series of flashbacks. Excellent performances by all, this was Lancaster’s first film and made him a star.

Ava Garner
The Killers

Book Notes

The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway and Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

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So, I finished one book and started another. I finished The Snows of Kilimanjaro and started Sweet Tooth.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a book of short stories by Ernest Hemingway, some I have read before and some of which were new to me and I was reading for the first time. The last story in the collection was The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, my favorite Hemingway story and quite possibly my favorite short story of all time. The last time I read this story I was in my 20s. I remember when and where I read it and under what circumstances I was my reading it. It made such a large impression on me. So, these many years later, I read it again with great joy and new eyes. It still made a great impression on me and revived many fond memories. This story taught me at an early age that Hemingway lived by code and it was possible to even have a code. This was an early and important teaching in my life and one I have always tried to live by.

I picked up Sweet Tooth and began to read it. Within 10 pages I knew I was going to like it. First of all, it was dedicated to Christopher Hitchens. One of my favorite writers and one to whom I most look up to and strive to write like when I attempt to write nonfiction. It is not easy. He has set a high bar. A few pages in McEwan references some of my other favorites writers and books as well. These are writers of fiction who are also my heroes: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, Vladimir Nabokov’s Bend Sinister, and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. All of which I have read. I am betting this book will prove to be a good read!