This is the golden age of bullfighting. In the last 60 years, the number of bullfights (corridas) held in Spain has increased almost ninefold, peaking in 2007. Great bullfighting names have the status of football stars, with heroes including Cayetano, José Tomás, Enrique Ponce and Morante de la Puebla, their styles ranging from the flamboyant and breath-takingly reckless to calm domination and technical mastery.
Many English-speaking tourists on holiday witness this most ancient and colourful of spectacles, but few understand what is really going on.
This illustrated guide acknowledges that attending a bullfight is controversial and will not appeal to everyone. It throws light on the bullfighter’s art and outlines the structure of the corrida, the key players and the various moves and stages.
A fascinating and complex event is defined step-by-step in layman's terms. The music, the excitement and reactions of the crowd and the drama are all put into context and one of the most ancient and unusual of modern spectacles becomes clear.
This book is designed to give readers of whatever persuasion an understanding of bullfighting, so that they can either increase their pleasure in watching a corrida in Spain, France or South America, or simply learn what is involved in this most complex, moving and controversial of spectacles.
Author: Tristan Wood
ISBN: 978 1 906122 27 0
Published: March 2011
No. of pages: 224
300 colour photographs
4 black & white illustrations
Reviewed by Charles Moore of The Spectator in July 2011
I strongly recommend a new book called 'How to Watch a Bullfight' by Tristan Wood (Merlin Unwin Books). It is packed with information and photographs about how bullfighting is actually conducted, including dos and don'ts of the kill. I had not realised until I read it that in recent years the spectacle has become, like the British criminal justice system, more merciful. It has not – obviously – abolished capital punishment, but in 1992 the indulto (reprieve) entered Spain's taurine regulations for the first time. If either the matador or a majority of the spectators thinks the bull is so splendid that it should be spared as a 'seed' bull; to protect the casta (spirit) of its breed, then this may be done. Mr Wood's overall argument for the corrida, now in its last season in Catalonia because of an excess of anti-Spanish zeal, is that three million cattle are slaughtered in Britain every year, ingloriously and covertly, whereas the Spanish bull can go to its death proudly and publicly, with 'the opportunity to have its name written into taurine history'.