A Dangerous Summer by Ernest Hemingway - review by Antony Beevor

Antony Beevor

No Ghosts at the Fiesta

A Dangerous Summer


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What a pity this book was not written as fiction. It is a compelling story, but the self-centred commentary draws attention to Hemingway in all his unloveliness – his paranoid egotism, mythomania and irresponsibility. Originally a commission for Life magazine, Hemingway turned it back into a book. The reasons for this slimmed version taking a quarter of a century to appear should be good for a few paragraphs in an eventual history of Scribners.

The Dangerous Summer covers the bullfighting season of 1959, when Hemingway and his entourage criss-crossed Spain following the fortunes of the young genius, Antonio Ordóñez, and the old conjuror, Luis Miguel Dominguín. Antonio, a quiet fanatic, had aroused Hemingway’s admiration with his cape-work and disdain for trickery. As usual, Hemingway’s views on courage are more revealing about himself than his subject. That Antonio is literally addicted to fear is beyond his imagination, (admittedly, noradrenalin had not been heard of), because for Hemingway, the conquest of fear must be noble. He always felt compelled to manufacture a reputation of conspicuous courage for himself – here, we have a typical boast about entering a wolfs cage – not because he was a coward, but because he was so afraid of being one.

The links with his two other great preoccupations, women and death, are too obvious to be ignored. (His childhood was classic case-history material – a weak, authoritarian father, who thought sex revolting and finally shot himself, and a domineering mother, who sometimes dressed her son in girls’ clothes.) Death is

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