European Diary

The Last Corrida

Paseo de Hemingway goes nowhere now.  I was at the last bullfight in Pamplona, the Catalan town beloved of Papa.  On a stuffy night last July, I watched as a bull named Andador, with a flick of the horns identical to the one that had secured Spain her place in the World Cup Final some days earlier, ripped off a famous matador’s ear—that deeply symbolic organ of which, from time immemorial, Spanish husbands threaten to deprive their wives’ lovers—and then raised him overhead, like a bale of straw, in jealous triumph.  In the ensuing weeks, Catalonia’s regional government voted to ban bullfighting, while a month later, in August, following the rampage wrought by another bull on the spectators’ terraces in Tafalla, it appeared inevitable that Navarra would follow suit.

Let us take sides.  A distinctive tradition like the corrida is above all a point of view, and it behooves any intellectual worth his pair of gold-rim spectacles to defend the right of others to express it.  Just as, following the maxim attributed to Voltaire, the good intellectual ought to be prepared to die—or at least to proclaim his readiness to die, while opening an offshore account and availing himself of a second passport—in defense of any opinion contrary to his own.  And so, indubitably, I am against the bullfighting ban, as, incidentally, is the king of Spain, who is on record as saying...

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