Welcome to Pamplona, Now Start Running

Welcome to Pamplona, Now Start Running

Originally uploaded by Thomas Roche

Great footage on YouTube — this is just one example — of the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, which happened today. There’s less exciting footage, from which this screencap is taken, at CNN’s iReport.

This event happens yearly as a run-up to the corrida, or bullfight, a sport that shares a name with a lesser-known Roger Zelazny short story. Ernest Hemingway was greatly affected by the running of the bulls in Pamplona; it figures prominently in his first published novel, The Sun Also Rises, also my favorite Hemingway novel — which isn’t actually saying all that much, but I do like it quite a bit. As I interpreted it when I was 13, Hemingway was attracted to the perceived self-reliance of the bullfighter as an antidote to the kinda meaningless relationships in the main character, Jake’s life. That, or he just thought bullfighting was butch.

Butch indeed; Wikipedia tells me that since 1910 15 people have been killed in the running of the bulls in Pamplona; the most recent was an American tourist in 1995. Nobody seems to have bought the farm this year, so mazel tov.

Once when I was visiting Vallarta, Mexico, I elected to see a bullfight. It goes without saying that it was kinda freaky for me. When it comes to the customs of other nations, I strive to be neither prescriptive nor proscriptive, only descriptive. But my description, by its nature, ain’t pretty. I eat meat, so I point no fingers. The life of a bull killed in a bullfight strikes me as more appropriate and less unnatural than the life of a factory-farmed beast. But it was not one of the high points of my life watching a huge animal enraged, stabbed repeatedly, gradually exhausted until it was hepless, and then, when it could run no further, killed.

Science fiction writer Zelazny, so influenced by Hemingway, once had a character observe that in a famous painting of a fox hunt, “some days my sympathies are with the fox,” but that usually he’s all hound. I’m generally both and neither, because fox, hound, hunter, bull, and bullfighter all end up in the same place, rotting… and hastening to its place, Papa, it rises there again.


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