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Into the Arena: The World of the Spanish Bullfight

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  66 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Alexander Fiske-Harrison has spent a year travelling with bullfighters to watch them work in the bullrings and ranches of Spain. Along the way he has entered the ring and ran with the bulls in Pamplona and trained with world famous matador Eduardo Davila Miura and is on a personal quest to fight a bull in the ring with the aim of winning. In a remarkable and controversial ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 26th 2011 by Profile Books (first published March 1st 2011)
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3.98  · 
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 ·  66 ratings  ·  11 reviews

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Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A really terrific account of one mans 2 year journey through the Spanish Bullfight scene, complete with extraordinary characters and amusing anecdotes told in a prose that often delves into the dramatic and with its subject matter fits entirely. I didn't know anything about the subject just the hyperbolic English Media's account which a bit like a conservative election manifesto cant really be trusted, this book didn't make me want to see a Bullfight, it didn't make me want to campaign against i ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ever since going to a bullfight last year in Spain I've been both fascinated with it and trying to figure out my fascination for something so undeniably brutal. The author of this book has kind of the same experience and takes it to the extreme -- first becoming close with bullfighters and their community in order to write about them, and eventually training himself to enter the ring. I've read four or five books on bullfighting in the past year, and this one is the best in covering the intricac ...more
Catherine Baum
Jun 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is very important to taurine literature in that it does not posture and swagger like Hemingway, it does not apologise like Kennedy. It faces the subject head on, flies in the face of fear, death and adventure, and Fiske-Harrison grabs the bull by the horns,literally, seeking out his place in the taurine world in order to experience the true meaning of what it means to fight and kill a bull. It is also completely impressive to me that he managed to infiltrate, befriend and continue to b ...more
Dec 21, 2012 rated it liked it
How much you enjoy this book probably depends to a great extent on how much you're interested in bullfighting. That said, most sporting literature is awful, and I'm sure that taurine writing isn't an exception. This book departs from this in that for a start, the author does not take refuge in well-worn arguments on the ethics of this, but openly acknowledges that it exists on the edge of an "ethical precipice". Instead of trawling through extant writing on the topic with its' attending clichés, ...more
Alexander Fiske-harrison
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bullfighting
Just thought I'd add some press quotes etc. to the page. For more, go to

The book was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2011, aka, the Bookie Prize. It was also selected for the following lists:

“Most inspiring sports book for Christmas” Sunday Times 2011
“Sports Books for Christmas” Sunday Telegraph 2011
“Best summer holiday reads” Sunday Telegraph 2011
“Essential summer reading” Sunday Times 2011

Here is what the reviewers said

“Complex and am
John Furnham
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
One of the best books on the subject of bullfighting that I have read in English. This book is honest. The author expounds on what he likes about bullfighting and also what he dislikes about it without pulling any punches. In order to get to the absolute essence of the spectacle he even trains to become a bullfighter and tells it like it is.
If you're interested in knowing more about bullfighting (whatever your motives) or you want to know why it's so popular, this book is an excellent place to s
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Not terribly well written, but what is deeply impressive about this book is the degree to which Fiske-Harrison has penetrated, and been accepted into, the fold of today's top name bullfighters, giving some fascinating behind the scenes accounts of hugely famous toreros. The transformation of his attitude from a certain averseness to bullfighting, to the intelligent understanding that fighting bulls lead greater lives and die better deaths than the cattle the world unthinkingly eats is to be admi ...more
Tom Schulte
Nov 26, 2012 rated it liked it
This Brit writer fell in love with bullfighting and even went down the path to be a matador-in-training. Along the way he introduces to recent bullfighting history, some important figures and behind the scenes elements, especiall bull breeding and traing. The author makes some convincing arguments that the "sport" (it is really sporting, like hunting?) is more humane than factor farming beef cattle, but in the end I am not convinced actually killing the bull for entertainment is defensible.
Jan 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
This was a good book, with lots of information about bull fighting and the write clearly had a lot of insight due to good research and trying to become a part of the community of matadors.
However a lot of this book is about himself and random nights which sometimes, as someone who was looking to learn about bullfighting, was irrelevant and distracting.

Overall a good read though.
Aug 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Very interesting subject almost completely ruined by the awful writing of the most uncharismatic author in the history of the world. Read the bits about the bullfighting and matadors, ignore completely any part where the author talks about himself and you'll be fine.
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
Tried to finish it but lost interest before halfway. It's not bad, just didn't manage to engage me at all
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