There’s a second-hand book store just down the road that I occasionally check-out on my way to the post office. As with most book stores in Innsbruck, the English-language section is well… rather lacking. Not that I’m complaining—it’s a German-speaking country after all, and I’m not one of those ex-pats that expects my every Anglo-centric whim catered to. (Apart from Creme Eggs and self-rising flour. That’s just simple common sense.)
Basically, their collection’s made up of: about half a dozen Clancy novels (bah), some Jamie Oliver cookbooks (been there, done that), and just about everything ever written by Sophie Kinsella (kill me now). But… if you get there on a good day you can get lucky and find something appealing before it gets snatched up by a more cunning and ravenous reader. So, when I found On Bullfighting by A.L. Kennedy, I was in luck.
I came to this book knowing very little about bullfighting; the irony being that when accepting the assignment, neither did the author. Completely unbiased, it’s a
layperson’s journey through the intricate and complex history of the ‘sport’ and its ‘players.’ Kennedy also gets into some pretty heavy stuff about mortality and all that jazz, we being privy to (unrelated but ironic) psychological and physical woes that plagued her during the writing process.
Despite these gloomy indulgences it’s a fascinating read, Kennedy managing to bring to light many details that I suspect would be out of reach to non-Spanish speakers including myself (such as the myriad of symbols and signals used during the fight, or the deceitful methods sometimes employed to prepare an otherwise ‘unsuitable’ bull for the ring).
My ultimate stance on bullfighting hasn’t shifted—I find any enterprise that necessitates the prolonged suffering of an animal cruel and barbaric—however I now have an understanding of how and why the mysterious (and at times beautiful) language of the bullfight is steeped through the lives of its aficionados.
If you’ve had the chance to read this, or can recommend another book on the subject, feel free to share your thoughts below.