June 4, 2011 12:36 am

Into the Arena

Into the Arena: The World of the Spanish Bullfight, by Alexander Fiske-Harrison, Profile, RRP£15.99, 256 pages

 

Alexander Fiske-Harrison watched his first bullfight in Seville in 2000. Ten years later he found himself drawn to the sport and Into the Arena is the result, moving adeptly between matador-training, social history and a sometimes thrilling, sometimes tedious series of bloody fights and sherry-fuelled fiestas.

It’s to Fiske-Harrison’s credit that he never quite gets over his moral qualms about bullfighting; the book is at its strongest when he uses his degree in biology to investigate the cruelty question. “Wildlife conservation,” he writes, “is financially underwritten by the bullfights.”

Although Into the Arena is full of intriguing detail – a fighting bull will never get to see a man on foot before it enters the ring – at times its subject encourages an overdone sense of writerly importance. However, the essential incongruity of an Englishman in the ring makes this book an engrossing introduction to bullfighting.

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