THE DANGEROUS SUMMER by Ernest Hemingway


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'Contento Ernesto?' he asked. 'Muy contento.' 'So am I,' he said. 'You saw how he [the bull] was? You saw everything about him?' 'I think so,' I said. 'Let's eat at Fraga.' 'Good.' 'Be careful on the road.' 'see you in Fraga,' I said." Thus the great matador Antonio Ordonez in conversation with Papa Hemingway after a brilliant performance in Barcelona. Hemingway fanticos may relish such moments of self-parody (there are many others) in this account of the duel, over the summer of 1959, between Ordonez and Luis Mignel Dominguin; few others will. The text is a whittled-down version (45,000 words from 70,000) of an article commissioned by the old Life. It has a long, loving introduction by James Michener (who calls The Old Man and the Sea an "incandescent miracle") and a glossary of bullfight terms taken from Death in the Afternoon (1932). The Hemingway we find here is old, tired, and writing from mechanical instinct. He befriends Ordonez, whom he passionately admires (though they call one another socio to minimalize sticky emotions), and whose ultimate victory over Dominguin he can't help savoring. The air is as thick with machismo as a sweaty locker room. Bullfighting, Papa says, is "worthless without rivalry." He is indignant over shaving the bull's horns and other danger-lessening gimmicks. He describes all the cornadas Antonio and Luis Miguel receive, with grim fascination. He shoots lighted cigarettes out of Antonio's mouth with a .22 rifle. He warns against bringing one's wife to Pamplona: "You'll probably lose her to a better man than you." Though he professes to be still enraptured by the corridas, his accounts of them grind monotonously. By contrast, his feel for the Spanish landscape is sometimes acute, although by now it evokes no political memories. With another byline, this would be readable if self-indulgent stuff; with Hemingway's, just further evidence of artistic and personal exhaustion.
Pub Date: June 24th, 1985
ISBN: 0684837897
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1985


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