El Quinto Bueno, Original Anglo-Spanish Dry Gin, ‘The Bullfighter’s Gin’, Launching 2023
El Quinto Bueno, Original Anglo-Spanish Dry Gin, ‘The Bullfighter’s Gin’, Launching 2023
I have just arrived back in Nîmes for the French literary award, Le Prix Hemingway 2022, for which I am shortlisted (once again.)
I thought I would put up the composite draft of the original English, the excellent translation by Monique Allier-Chay, and my edit of that translated back into English. It may, as a result, have a clumsiness at the beginning in English, but has all of the power I intended at the finish.
It was published by Les Avocats du Diable in French (Amazon UK here, US here, France here, Spain here, Germany here) my English version is below.
AT first the blood had poured between his fingers like dark water seen swirling around rocks. The pain had been almost unbearable, but he had known pain enough in life to know it was nothing more than a mist one moved through. Think about something else. Where were they? They should be here by now.
Finally, he could hear voices and he knew that was good, for although the bleeding had slowed to a trickle, he knew his thoughts were drifting as his will diminished.
“¡Espera, torero! Estaremos ahí. Es peligroso, quédate quieto.”
He noticed one of his hands had fallen away from the wound, and he looked at the limb. It felt cold, and he knew that was bad. He tried to move it back into place, but it merely rolled on the ground. The sand felt different, colder than the hand, although all sensation was going now. As was vision. He could hear, just.
A voice said something indistinguishable in German. Which was strange, he thought. Continue reading
The Hemingway Prize, with my shortlisted contribution, in French in bookshops (and Amazon) now.
Le Prix Hemingway, avec ma contribution présélectionnée, en français en librairie (et Amazon) maintenant.
El Premio Hemingway, con mi contribución preseleccionada, en francés en las librerías (y Amazon) ahora.
ABC de Sevilla, ABC of Seville, Puerta del Principe, Gate of the Prince, La Real Maestranza, The Royal Maestranza, Plaza de Toros, The Bull Ring, Feria, Feria de Abdul, April Fair, Feria de San Miguel, The Bullfight, La Corrida, Victorino Martín, Antonio Ferrera, El Cid, España, Spain, Matador, Torero, Bullfighter, Alexander Fiske-Harrison, Enrique Moreno de la Cova, Maria O’Neill, Maestrante
“El Indultado”, ‘The Pardoned One’, by Alexander Fiske-Harrison:
vocal.media/fiction/el-ind my first story of a bullfight from the perspective of the bull. My most honest. The most brutal. #vocalmedia #shortstory #bullfighting
“I’d much rather be a Spanish fighting bull than a farm cow”
I left the site of my last Andalusian postcard with a heavy heart and burning ears: apparently some locals had taken offence to the “elitist” connotations of my comparison of their town to Notting Hill. People take things the wrong way with a vengeance nowadays: as with Montparnasse in Paris, the artists that first made Notting Hill famous were followed by richer creative-types and the resulting economic gear-change had both upsides and downsides.
Notably, though, these complaints were British ex-pats. The Spanish were delighted, with the Mayor of the town, a socialist, writing to say how much he looked forward to hosting Telegraph readers.
After Gaucín, for the first time in a decade I did not know where to go in Spain mid-July. Normally, I would head north to Pamplona for the Feria of San Fermín, known here simply as Fiesta.
Some people think running with bulls, a pastime for which that city is most famous, is dangerous and anachronistic, and the end place of that run, the bull-ring, is a place of torture and death. And indeed, all Spain’s bull rings are registered abattoirs – they have to be, because the carcass of every bull ends up in the food chain. The only difference, in terms of the bull’s welfare, is the manner and duration of their life and the manner and duration of their death, but perhaps not in the way readers think.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of my own first visit to Zahariche, the legendary ranch of my friends the Miura family – the most famous breeders of Spanish fighting bulls in history – and in this difficult time for all taurinos, I thought I would translate this interview with Don Eduardo Miura in the Spanish newspaper ABC.
A dark silence ran through the world of bullfighting at the suspension of the Fiesta of the fury in red and white: not bull-runs nor bullfights, nothing. The cancellation of the Feria del Toro enlarges even further the shadow of the crisis in the world of bull-breeding.
“This season is a ruin,” is the unanimous voice. Although the cartels were not yet known – the Bullfighting Commission suspended the contracting of the bullfighters in March when they first heard the sounds about the State of Emergency – the Casa de la Misericordia had already decided on the ranches in December, nine bullfights and one novice bullfight, sixty bulls will stay in the countryside: Pincha, Capea, La Palmosilla, Núñez del Cuvillo, Victoriano del Río, Jandilla, Fuente Ymbro, Cebada Gago, José Escolar and Miura.
And now in one of the scenes where usually the main part of the money is paid to the ranches, and then their very best bulls are sent to the Corrals of Gas in the City, yet another setback is delivered to this most affected sector of the economy, where there is no income and everything is expenses:
“Animals must be cared for and fed daily,” says Eduardo Miura. The ranch of ‘Zahariche’, saint and symbol of Pamplona, was going to sent yet another perfect group of bulls for the Sanfermines on July 14.”
“I imagined it would not be celebrated this year but this is a very cruel blow. We have been there for fifty years without missing a single one, except during the riots of ’78. This coronavirus is crushing us; in addition to health, it is going to have a very negative impact on global tourism and the economy. ”
The Fiesta of Pamplona was one of the eight bullfights that the Miura had lined up for 2020, around fifty bulls whose final time “may be the slaughterhouse”, without the honors of the bullring.
“We have raised them with the greatest care to be dealt with in rings like Seville or Pamplona, and now the destiny of many may be to be sacrificed in the anonymity of a slaughterhouse. It is a real shame.”
Miura, the brand of bull with which the matador Juan José Padilla was crowned the eternal hero in San Fermín, had prepared for Pamplona bulls from Cuatreños to Cinqueños [Four- to five-years-old, no bull of six years or older may enter the ring by Spanish law – AFH] but he knows that not even all four-year-olds will be able to contend in 2021 either:
“There will be an excess of bulls out in the fields, prices will drop, expenses will continue … And I do not expect much help from a government that is not very friendly to the activity to which I have dedicated myself.”
The Casa de la Misericordia of Pamplona plans to give preference to the livestock contracted for this year at the next fair [in 2021], but even so “the economic damage is going to be very heavy, and each one will have to get out of this crisis as best they can.”
It was when they taped off the children’s playground on the Plaza de la Constitución, as though it were a crime scene, that we knew the rumours were true.
All that Saturday the streets had been empty of people save the town’s ex-pat population as the Spanish government debated at every level – local, provincial and national – about what would put on ‘lockdown’ and how. I came down from my balcony to investigate as the local police pinned a notice to the swings, reading “Proclamation: Preventative Measures for the Protection of Citizens against the Coronavirus”, written in the name of the Mayor, and followed by a list of closures ranging from the municipal library to the 12th-century Moorish castle which stands guard over our Andalusian hilltop town.
Knowing that more was sure to come we stayed at Bar Pastor until closing time. The next morning we woke up to find the police sealing that bar, and all the others. It had begun.
This blog was begun twelve years ago to keep track of my research into the world of bullfighting following my award-winning essay for Prospect, “the most intelligent magazine of current affairs and cultural debate in Britain.”
Above you can find pages on the author, an introduction to the structure of the bullfight, a more scientific piece on the nature of the Spanish fighting bull, and how to contact me. Two other posts I would mention here are this one on the popularity of bullfighting in Spain and the often quoted ‘Gallup’ polls, and also this one on the 533 famous professional bullfighters killed in the ring in the past three centuries. However, the standalone piece on this blog, and the product of 20 years research – I saw my first bullfight in the Spring of 2000 – is my long essay on bullfighting here.
In the past two decades I have watched well over a thousand bullfights, run the bulls myself in Pamplona for a decade,, along with a over dozen other bull-running towns such as Cuéllar and San Sebastián de los Reyes, Tafalla and Falces. I’ve fought alongside matadors in the ring myself and wrote the first two years of those experiences as a national book award shortlisted memoir, Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight, available from Amazon (for Amazon UK click here, US here, Canada here, Australia here and India here.)
“Complex and ambitious, compelling and lyrical.”
Mail on Sunday
“An engrossing introduction to Spain’s ‘great feast of art and danger’. Brilliantly capturing a fascinating, intoxicating culture”
“A compelling read, unusual for its genre, exalting the bullfight as pure theatre.”
“He did not expect to fall in love with bullfighting, but then he had his eyes opened by the beauty, dignity and art of the sport.”
“Thrilling. An engrossing introduction to bullfighting.”
“An informed piece of work on a subject about which we are all expected to have a view.”
“Although Fiske-Harrison develops a taste for the whole gruesome spectacle, what makes the book work is that he never loses his disgust for it.” (Daily Mail), “It’s to Fiske-Harrison’s credit that he never quite gets over his moral qualms about bullfighting.” (Financial Times), “Uneasy ethical dilemmas abound, not least the recurring question of how much suffering the animals are put through.” (Sunday Telegraph), “Fiske-Harrison admits that with each of his fights he knows more, not less fear. When he kills his first and only bull he feels not triumph but overwhelming sadness for a life taken.” (Mail on Sunday) and “The question of whether a modern society should endorse animal suffering as entertainment is bound to cross the mind of any casual visitor to a bullfight. Alexander Fiske-Harrison first tussled with the issue in his early twenties and, as a student of both philosophy and biology, has perhaps tussled with it more lengthily and cogently than most of us.”(Literary Review)