Some days ago, and to my surprise I received an envelope that on opening, contained the  book Schönheit und Schrecken, Vom Sinn der Corrida (Beauty and horror, The meaning of the corrida), an almost scientific approach to the corrida in the German language written by the eminent Martin Jurgens from Berlin. 

I know the author, albeit vaguely. I think he was one of the initiators of the taurine website In the past he bought one of my books and I remember meeting him and his family once in La Malagueta (I think) during an August feria in Malaga.

According to the information in his new book the author was born in 1944 in Berlin and after a doctorate on the late work of Robert Walser and an art-sociological habilitation (‘Modern and Mimesis. Proposal for a theory of modern art’) dr. Jurgens worked as a university lecturer until 2002. After that he had teaching assignments, at the (among others) University of the Arts in Berlin in the course ‘scenic writing’. He has worked for the theater since 1981 mainly as a director of more than 30 stage productions.

Martin Jurgens saw his first corrida in Nimes in September 1963. An event with a legendary line-up of Diego Puerta, Santiago Martin El Viti and the newly promoted Portuguese matador Amadeo dos Anjos (who took over from an injured Paco Camino). The bulls came from the renowned ganadero Felipe Bartolomé  while Alvarito Domecq toreared a Buendia bull on horseback and won an ear. About his first taurine experience the author writes: “At the beginning there was – as with every corrida – the splendid entry of all those involved in a hierarchically structured form, from the matadors in the first row to the assistants in red shirts with their mules at the end. All of this caused no problems for the understanding. To me it was like the variant of a pageant, known from secular and religious occasions.”

The book has ten chapters and all have at least three separate subchapters. Chapter 1 is called ‘Disgust and fascination’. Chapter 2 describes the three parts of the corrida while chapter 3 talks of the ‘Moment of Truth’. Other subjects are ‘the Magician of Death’, ‘Female matadors’ and ‘Theater, Ritual, Animal Sacrifice’. It contains the short story of Manuel Garcia, one of Ernest Hemingway’s heroes in his volume Men Without Women and combines the Forcados of Portugal with the history of Pedro Romero in a chapter called ‘The Order of the Undefeated’. The following chapters are called: ‘The horror of the corrida, Animal ethics and the morals of the people’, followed by Moral, Death, Intensity and the book finishes with ‘The corrida and this Europe: beauty and reconciliation’. 

I find it fascinating that the author hasn’t been caught taking the already trodden paths of adulation of so many taurine books, but has clearly studied the history and its underlying sociology as well as talking about Curro Romero, Juan José Padilla, Conchita Cintrón and other, more earthly subjects. In that aspect, it is a very un-Spanish book but, maybe it needs a non-Spaniard to make us non-Spanish understand that the fascination of this event is not only limited to Spain or being Spanish. Its message clearly says that tauromachy has no frontiers. Its deep values affect us all. Even though my German is inadequate to understand everything, I’m honored to have a signed and dedicated copy.

Cronica de Pieter Hildering