Ernest Hemingway, an enthusiastic participant, eulogised bullfighting as one of only three sports
The other two were motor racing and mountain climbing
Those, that sometimes, offered death as an alternative to winning
All other sports were games
Though his first book, The Sun also Rises, equivocates on the validity of risking your life for fun, exhilaration and sport by running with the bulls at the Fiesta de San Femín, in Pamplona
But Hemingway never experienced the current Bacchanalia; girls sported on shoulders; naked breasts; doused in red wine; feminine sexual acquiescence faced by overwhelming masculinity: seven hundred kilos of bull, whose purpose in life is to procreate and a sea of testosterone from the runners vanity to prove manhood
Much like a Hell’s Angels convention with faces obscured by bandanas and beards on tamed bulls of single cylinders and carburetors, their women riding pillion in thongs and black studded boots
The Sun also Rises, written when women weren’t even seen at the encierro*
Hemingway’s book romanticised the encierro in a heroic way; a red rag to dilettante runners from around the world, especially Americans who wanted to follow his perceived free-spirit
These accompanying, uncredited, images from The World Festival Directory are very engaging and show what the Pamplona Bull Run is all about
* the corralling of the bulls in the bullring having been driven from the edge of town. In other words the Pamplona Bull Run
introduction by Tim Harris
excerpts from The Sun also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926) by Scribner paperback edition (2006)
There were so many people running ahead of the bulls that the mass thickened and slowed up going through the gate into the ring, and as the bulls passed, galloping together, muddy-sided, horns swinging, one shot ahead, caught a man in the running crowd in the back and lifted him in the air. Both the mans arm’s were by his sides, his head went back as the horn went in, and the bull lifted him and then dropped him. The bull picked another man running infront, but the man disappeared into the crowd, and the crowd was through the gate and into the ring with the bulls behind them. The red door of the ring went shut, the crowd on the outside balconies of the bull-ring were pressing through to the inside, there was a shout, then another shout
The man who had been gored lay face down in the trampled mud. People climbed over the fence, and I could not see the man because the crowd was so thick around him. From inside the ring came the shouts. Each shout meant a charge by some bull into the crowd. You could tell by the degree of intensity in the shout how bad a thing it was that was happening. Then the rocket went up that meant the steers had gotten the bulls out of the ring and into the corrals. I left the fence and started back towards the town.
Back in the town I went to the café to have a second coffee and some buttered toast. The waiters were sweeping out the café and mopping off the tables. One came over and took my order.
Anything happen at the encierro?
I didn’t see it all. One man was badly cogido.
I put one hand on the small of my back and the other on my chest, where it looked as though the horn might have come through. The waiter nodded his head and swept the crumbs from the table with his cloth.
Badly cogido, he said. All for sport. All for pleasure.
He went away and came back with the long-handled coffee and milk pots. He poured the milk and coffee. It came out of the long spouts in two streams into the big cup. The waiter nodded his head.
Badly cogido through the back, he said. He put the pots down on the table and sat down in the chair at the table. A big horn wound. All for fun. Just for fun. What do you think of that?
I don’t know
That’s it. All for fun. Fun, you understand.
You’re not an aficionado.
Me? What are bulls? Animals. Brute animals. He stood up and piut his hand on the small of his back. Right through the back. A cornada right through the back. For fun – you understand.
He shook his head and walked away, carrying the coffee pots. Two men were going by in the street. The waiter shouted to them. They were grave looking. One shook his head. Muerto! he called.
The waiter nodded his head. The two men went on. They were on some errand. The waiter came over to my table.
You hear? Muerto. Dead. He’s dead. With a horn through him. All for morning fun. Es muy flamenco.
Not for me, the waiter said. No fun in that for me.