British writer risks death in the afternoon

Thu Jun 30, 2011 5:15am EDT
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By Angus MacSwan

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The pavement outside a tapas bar in London's Old Brompton Road is a far cry from a bullring in Spain.

But that doesn't stop British writer, actor and amateur matador Alexander Fiske-Harrison from leaping to his feet mid-conversation and demonstrating a series of sweeping passes.

"There is no winning. It's not a fight," he says of the bloody Spanish spectacle. "It's a tragic play in three acts."

Fiske-Harrison, an Old Etonion and Oxford graduate, is following a line of non-Spanish artists to have been captivated by the "corrida de toros" that includes film-maker Orson Welles, critic Kenneth Tynan and, of course, Ernest Hemingway.

His just-published book "Into the Arena" sets out to explain the world of the Spanish bullfight and to examine its moral dilemma --the killing of an animal for entertainment.

It comes out at a time when the corrida is under sustained attack from animal rights activists in Spain and abroad and is feeling the effects of the country's economic crisis.

To get to the heart of the matter, Fiske-Harrison, 34, spent a year living in Seville and training as a matador, learning the cape passes and the technique of killing with the sword.

He took part in more than a dozen "tentaderos" -- private fights at bull ranches aimed at testing young bulls -- and finished by killing a three-year-old Saltillo bull before an audience of 100 spectators last November.   Continued...