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Death in the Afternoon [Kindle Edition]

Ernest Hemingway
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Still considered one of the best books ever written about bullfighting, Death in the Afternoon is an impassioned look at the sport by one of its true aficionados. It reflects Hemingway's conviction that bullfighting was more than mere sport and reveals a rich source of inspiration for his art. The unrivaled drama of bullfighting, with its rigorous combination of athleticism and artistry, and its requisite display of grace under pressure, ignited Hemingway's imagination. Here he describes and explains the technical aspects of this dangerous ritual and “the emotional and spiritual intensity and pure classic beauty that can be produced by a man, an animal, and a piece of scarlet serge draped on a stick.” Seen through his eyes, bullfighting becomes a richly choreographed ballet, with performers who range from awkward amateurs to masters of great elegance and cunning.

A fascinating look at the history and grandeur of bullfighting, Death in the Afternoon is also a deeper contemplation of the nature of cowardice and bravery, sport and tragedy, and is enlivened throughout by Hemingway's sharp commentary on life and literature.

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"Hemingway's style, at its best, is a superb vehicle for revealing tenderness of feeling beneath descriptions of brutality" (Guardian)

"The most readable and the most nearly exhaustive account of the Spanish Bullfight that we have" (V.S. Pritchett)

Book Description

Hemingway's classic portrait of the pageantry of bullfighting

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More About the Author

Ernest Hemingway was born in 1899. His father was a doctor and he was the second of six children. Their home was at Oak Park, a Chicago suburb.

In 1917, Hemingway joined the Kansas City Star as a cub reporter. The following year, he volunteered as an ambulance driver on the Italian front, where he was badly wounded but decorated for his services. He returned to America in 1919, and married in 1921. In 1922, he reported on the Greco-Turkish war before resigning from journalism to devote himself to fiction. He settled in Paris where he renewed his earlier friendships with such fellow-American expatriates as Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. Their encouragement and criticism were to play a valuable part in the formation of his style.

Hemingway's first two published works were Three Stories and Ten Poems and In Our Time but it was the satirical novel, The Torrents of Spring, that established his name more widely. His international reputation was firmly secured by his next three books; Fiesta, Men Without Women and A Farewell to Arms.

He was passionately involved with bullfighting, big-game hunting and deep-sea fishing and his writing reflected this. He visited Spain during the Civil War and described his experiences in the bestseller, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

His direct and deceptively simple style of writing spawned generations of imitators but no equals. Recognition of his position in contemporary literature came in 1954 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, following the publication of The Old Man and the Sea. He died in 1961.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but uncomfortable reading 18 July 2001
By A Customer
A collection of what seems to be stories loosely sewn together to form a very long essay on the virtues of bull fighting. It looks closely at the world of the matador, explains every rule of the fight in great detail and shows his great enthusiasm for this very Spanish of sports (though it still takes place in some areas of France and Portugal).
You've got to have the stomach for this one and it is a hard book to swallow if you're remotely sensitive to the plight of innocent animals. Some of the pictures are a bit too graphic though you do get the other side of the coin with some rather frank pictures of matador's thrown over bulls horns and even in one or two cases, lying dead in the morgue.
Hemingway does have a winning style though and he is intensely readable and somehow you get swept along even when the subject is uncomfortable reading. He is undoubtedly a brilliant writer and he has a passion for the sport. If anything it's a learning experience in the hands of a master.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introducing the Bull Fight to Potential Fans 29 Aug. 2004
I don't approve of killing animals for entertainment, and this book did not change that disapproval. I endorse this book because of its qualities as a model for introducing a subject to a new learner, rather than for its subject matter.
If you like bullfights, you will like this book because Death in the Afternoon will probably expand your understanding of what you see. If you want to go to bullfights, this is a good book also because it will tell you how to do so in the most enjoyable way for you.
Most people will never attend a bullfight, because of ethical concerns, some personal dismay about their potential reaction to the violence and horror of the event, or due to lack of opportunity (bullfighting is mainly done in Spain and Mexico). Many of these people will have some interest in understanding more about bullfighting or the appeal and spectacle of the event. Death in the Afternoon provides you with a thoughtful way to satisfy any curiosity you may have.
Hemingway set out to write "an introduction to the modern Spanish bullfight and attempt[ed] to explain that spectacle both emotionally and practically." I think he more than succeeded.
Hemingway leads you gently into the subject as though you were chatting while seated at a comfortable table in an outdoor cafe on a pleasant afternoon sipping your favorite beverages. In fact, for part of the book, he invents an old lady whom he converses with for comic effect.
He tells you about his own experiences throughout beginning expecting "to be horrified and perhaps sickened." It turned out that this was not his reaction at all. He liked the bullfight, and saw 1,500 bulls killed before writing this book. He also reports that many people he took to fights often experienced different emotions than they expected.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By jacr100 VINE VOICE
Death in the Afternoon is a book about bullfighting, something Englishmen tend to object to on moral grounds. It was also published in 1932, over half a century ago. So why should you read it? For several reasons, in fact. Firstly, because it is a rich historical document: the book is in effect a biography of all the toreros of note practising their art in Spain in the early decades of the twentieth century, and Hemingway is refreshingly honest in his assessments of their merits. In those departments where they excelled, Hemingway was always ready to say as much; but where they were lacking - and woe betide them if they were cowardly rather than simply technically inept - no rod would be spared in disparaging the effect their craven actions were having on the ancient art of bullfighting. Secondly, because Hemingway is a true aficionado, and is able to penetrate to the heart of the aesthetics of bullfighting, persuasively arguing as he does so why the killing of the horses (no longer a feature of bullfights) is incidental, and necessary to tire the bull, who alone is the tragic figure. Death, Hemingway reveals, is the true crux of the culture of bullfighting, it being guaranteed in every fight, but what the Spaniard comes to see at each corrida is not this guarantee of death but rather its antithesis:
'[The bullfighter] is performing a work of art, and he is playing with death, bringing it closer, closer, closer, to himself, a death that you know is in the horns because you have the canvas-covered bodies of the horses on the sand to prove it. He gives the feeling of his immortality, and, as you watch it, it becomes yours.'
It is this toying with death that excites the Spanish imagination, with the most acknowledged fighters being those who calmly take the most risks.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than bullfighting 16 Oct. 1998
By A Customer
One of my favorite pieces of writing--by Hemingway or anyone else--is the last chapter of Death in the Afternoon, where Hem laments all the things about Spain that are NOT in the book. And then, in naming those things, he creates a fantastic mosaic of keenly observed, beautifully described aspects of Spain. You don't even have to read the rest of the book or care about bullfighting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic To Be Savored 12 Dec. 2010
By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
"Death In The Afternoon" is Ernest Hemingway's tribute to the bull fighting. Here Hemingway shares with the reader his insights gleaned from years of intense study of the art. This book covers the terms and actions of the fight along with the author's personal evaluations of what makes a bull fighter great and what makes a great bull fight. He also explains the inner soul of the matador and how it connects to the soul of Spain. Much of the content is devoted to his own observations and the stories of individual bull fighters.

I have never seen a bull fight so I started reading with a fairly neutral curiosity. I was quickly drawn into the story. At time I had trouble following the individuals, equipment and the stages involved in the bull fight, but I still found the book to be enjoyable. At the end I felt that I had a much better understanding of the lure of the bull fight and what to watch for if I would ever see one. I had no background into the history of bull fighting or those enshrined in its pantheon. To reader interested in the history and art of the bull fight, this book would probably be an indispensable tome. To me it was a very enjoyable read. Hemingway has a way of telling a story that is entertaining, word after word. Even the seemingly endless narratives of the heroes of the rings held my attention due to the skillful writing employed throughout. I ended up with an openness to attend a bull fight, if the opportunity presents itself, and questions in my own mind about how the sport has evolved since the original writing in the 1930s. Whether you are a fan of the bull fight or merely enjoy a story skillfully told, "Death In The Afternoon" is a classic to be savored.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Marvel !!
Published 3 days ago by W. Falkowski
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful writer. Great book. Fascinating subject.
Published 1 month ago by J G Carter
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 1 month ago by clare lennon
5.0 out of 5 stars Tells it like it is. No bull.
Me gustó mucho este libro. Me enseñó mucho sobre la forma de arte que es el toreo. No estropeado por el tiempo

I really liked this book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Allan Dowdeswell
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
no comment
Published 4 months ago by douglas jacob
4.0 out of 5 stars Total Bull
The last of my Hemingway books is by no means the least. My interest in bullfighting is about the same as fishing, big game hunting and horse racing - yet I was utterly charmed and... Read more
Published 6 months ago by The Outsider
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic.
Nice edition of the classic.
Published 6 months ago by Denis Banks
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Beautiful novel easy and quick
Published 11 months ago by cvetok
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but bloody
I bought this book as a recommendation from a friend before my touring holiday in Spain. It was sold to me on the basis that it would give me a greater understanding of the real... Read more
Published 11 months ago by I.Muldoon
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic
Read again after a number of years. Still has the power to pull you in to the world of bullfighting in its golden age at the time of Hemingway. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Ampthill bookworm
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