Jeffrey Meyers

In the Bullring

 

Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters.

The Sun Also Rises

I went to Spain last summer to research a biography of Hemingway and to interview Antonio Ordónez and Luis Miguel Dominguin, the two greatest bullfighters since the death of Manolete in 1947. The nature of Hemingway’s relationship with these two men, whose personal and professional rivalry inspired the ‘Dangerous Summer’ articles that appeared in Life in September 1960, has never been explained. I wanted to know what these two matadors thought of Hemingway, of his knowledge of Spain, of Spanish, of bullfighting. I found their contradictory answers to my questions revealed as much about Ordónez aid Dominguin as Hemingway. In Keith Botsford’s book, Dominguin, the subject admits:

We toreros are more jealous than actors, more jealous even than prima donnas in opera. It is not just part of our nature, it is also something which others push us to, deliberately.

 

Dominguin speaks frankly in the book and is extremely antagonistic to Hemingway. He calls him a drunkard, liar and bore; a plagiarist, imbecile and beast. He states that Hemingway was vulgar, foulmouthed, impotent; childish, stupid and slightly mad. And he quotes Hemingway’s threat: ‘I’m going to ruin you for life, Miguel … I’ll have you kept out of the ring.’ Dominguin maintains that Hemingway, by provoking Ordónez and promoting the ‘Dangerous Summer’ for his own profit, deliberately transformed their harmless rivalry into a fanatical fight to the death. Dominguin’s attack is too extreme to be convincing; but he does expose some of the weaknesses of the aging Hemingway and reveals how bitterly hurt he himself was by their quarrel and Hemingway’s sharp criticism of his performance in the bullring.

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