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Bullfighting: A Troubled History Paperback – July 15, 2010

4 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This book tracks bullfighting’s history from its origins in Spain as a form of public torture, to a more audience-friendly, performance-based sport, to an object of political and social debate. (Naturally there is some overlap: bullfighting was the object of moral outrage pretty much from its beginning.) While the writing is dryly factual, the many illustrations—there’s something on almost every page—convey the sport’s elegance, majesty, and visceral appeal. The author makes many interesting observations (her discussion of early bullfighting as an adaptation of the language and form of the public executions of the Spanish Inquisition is especially fascinating), and her description of the mechanics of bullfighting, of the equipment and techniques, is quite instructive. Ultimately the book’s appeal will be decided by the reader’s own feelings about its subject: if you think bullfighting is barbaric and abhorrent, nothing here will change your mind. On the other hand, if you view it as a part of cultural history, there is much here that will intrigue and inform. --David Pitt


"A History of Bullfighting is a compact, digestible paperback from Reaktion Books, in which the author, Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugier, takes the reader down the bload-soaked streets of Seville in the eighteenth century to the blood-soaked arenas of Latin American in the nineteenth to the blood-soaked manuscripts of Bataille and Hemingway in thte twentieth. . . . [The book] is spectacular in its own right--not just in its descriptions but in its images, culled from bullfighting's rich visual history."
(New Yorker Book Bench blog)

"In this broad deconstruction of the meanings of bullfighting, Hardouin-Fugier musters copious data through wide-ranging, often novel, examples--art, literature, chronicles. This results in a powerful demythologization of the event and its meanings. Well-illustrated chapters cover history, practices, artistic interpretations, and sociocultural movements that have adopted or rejected the bullfight as a key symbol."


"It's safe to say Hardouin-Fugier isn't an aficionada of the bullring, yet her account of tauromachia's 'troubled' history does its best to be fair-minded. The corrida has had its controversial aspects pretty much as long as it's existed, despite the air of chivalric convention and artistic flair created around it in modern times. The cultural richness that's resulted can hardly be denied, as this stunningly (if sometimes disturbing) illustrated book makes clear."–Scotsman


Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books (July 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861895186
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861895189
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.7 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,469,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

We come to review this book not for what it says, but rather for what it shows. We here at Dream Factory have a passion for the 'skin of society'. That being - ART.

This luscious book is absolutely overflowing with wonderful bullfight related artwork. 93 reproductions to be exact. By the likes of Delacroix, Solana, Oscar Dominguez, Picasso, Bacon, Andre Masson, Renoir, Guerineau, and dozens more. 2 by Dali ( one of which we have never seen. Because it was painted especially for a bullfight in his honor). Over a dozen by Goya. 4 by Manet. Including his masterpiece 'the dead toreador'. Sado-erotic drawings by the surrealist Masson. A stage curtain by Picasso. Plus there are photos of bullfight statues and posters galore. . . . Oh yea then theres the gore. Well after all this is an anti-bullfighting book. Don't worry only about four photos.

Note that this is not a official art book and thus the art reproductions do not have any explanatory captions.. That's ok because this is a wonderful bullfight art collection. Well look here the author is a professor of art. Great job Ms. Elisabeth.
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Actually, I thought that Hardouin Fugier's book was not an "anti-bullfighting screed" but an extremely well-argued and beautifully written account of the history of the corrida, written from the standpoint of resolute and steadfast but intelligent opposition. She avoids dwelling too much on the (usually unproven) allegations of some activists about the way that the bulls are treated before the corrida and talks about what we all know, that it is an indefensible activity in itself. She examines intelligently the myths that helped to glorify and glamourise bullfighting and those who make a living out of it. She examines the psychological appeal of the bullfight and gives credit where credit's due to aficionados and others who don't share her views but have contributed to the debate. One of the things she examines is the fact that euphemistic language and symbolism and rituals disguise the reality and frequently what the corrida is thought to be bears absolutely no resemblance to what actually happens. This book is a must read for anyone who feels strongly about the subject. If you are an aficionado you may, however, find this book extremely offensive, but not because there is anything crude or inaccurate within its pages, but simply because she is telling the truth and the truth hurts.
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The Amazon editorial reviews are made out to suggest that this book is a dispassionate, evenhanded examnation of the history of the bullfight, and I purchased the book expecting as much. The book is nothing of the sort: it's an anti-bullfighting screed.

If you're a member of PETA, this book may be of interest. If you're an aficionado looking for a scholarly examination of bullfighting's past you will need to look elsewhere.

I give the book two stars, instead of one, because of the quality of the photos and paintings liberally supplied throughout the text.
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