Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon: The Complete Annotations

Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon: The Complete Annotations

Kinnamon, Keneth

Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon: The Complete Annotations.

By Miriam Mandel. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2002.647 pp. $95.00

Early in Death in the Afternoon Hemingway states that he found torso to be “much too complicated for my then equipment for writing to deal with, and aside from four very short sketches, I was not able to write anything about it for five years-and I wish I would have waited ten.” Miriam Mandel’s massive reference book on Hemingway’s taurine classic required a research effort “half again as long” as Hemingway’s, resulting in a major work of scholarship that no Hemingway scholar or student can afford to ignore.

Perhaps only a book reviewer or a dedicated taurino would read Hemingway’s Death in theAfternoon: The Complete Annotations straight through, but from now on readers of Hemingway will need to consult Mandel’s book to expand their understanding of the complexities of their author’s favorite spectacle and country, whether or not they share his aficion. To do so, they must begin with a close reading of the “User’s Guide” section (pp. xv-xxiii), which provides necessary orientation, especially for readers unfamiliar with Spanish usage with respect to names.

In addition to a perceptive discussion of the attraction of torso to the young man from Oak Park, the lengthy “Introduction” includes a very helpful disquisition on bulls and bull breeding (5-13), the least understood aspect of torso among American readers. Here as elsewhere Mandel’s perspective is historical, alert to changes over time, especially as related to Hemingway’s predisposition to nostalgia.

The main body of Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon: The Complete Annotations is of course the annotations themselves, alphabetically arranged from ABC, Madrid’s oldest daily newspaper, to Zurito, the patriarch of the Haba family of toreros. The description of raising brave bulls in the “Introduction” is richly amplified by entries for the Marques de Albayda, antiguedad, the Arribas brothers, Don Jose Bueno, Jose Rafael Cabrera, Dona Conception, Concha y Sierra, Conde de la Corte, Enriqueta de la Cova, Dona Carmen de Federico, Don Julian Fernandez Martinez, La Viuda de Don Felix Gomez, Esteban Hernandez, Eduardo Ibarra, Pedro Jose Picavea de Lesaca, Don Antonio Lopez Plata, Don Vicente Martinez, Don Eduardo Miura, Murube, La Viuda de Ortega, Pablo Romero, Pereira Palha, Perez Tabernero, Don Victorino Ripamilan, Jose Arias de Saavedra, Don Francisco Sanchez, Conde de Santa Coloma, Don Florentino Sotomayor, Duke of Tovar, Vazquez, Duke of Veragua, Marques de Villamarta, Francisco and Victorio Villar, Francisco Villar, and Vistahermosa.

However, English-speaking aficionados will probably turn most often to the more that one hundred biographical sketches of toreros, all of whom have some relevance to Hemingway as aficionado. The easy way would have been to paraphrase the relevant entries in volume three of Jose Maria y Cossio’s monumental encyclopedia, Los toros: tratado tecnico e historico. Instead, Mandel the indefatigable researcher consults all available sources, often supplying corrections and reconciling differences among taurine authorities. For example, the entry on Juan Belmonte, perhaps the most important figura in the entire history of toreo, draws not only on Cossio but also on Jose Silva Aramburu, Jose Martinez Salvatierra, Daniel Tapia, Ventura Bagees, Francisco G6mez Hidalgo, Abraham Valdelomar, Enrique Vila, Manuel Garcia Santos, Francisco Narbona, and Juan Belmonte: Killer of Bulls, an autobiography ghostwritten by Manuel Chavez Nogales and translated into English by Leslie Charteris. Taking into consideration not only the book under review but also her two forthcoming books, The Dangerous Summer: The Complete Annotations and a collection of essays on Death in the Afternoon by various hands, there can be little doubt that Mandel is in the first rank not only of authorities on Death in the Afternoon but also of taurine scholars in general.

But since Death in the Afternoon is a work that deals with much besides the toros, The Complete Annotations is also of interest to readers who are indifferent or even hostile toward the corrida. Spanish and Italian history, Sholem Asch, Baedeker guidebooks, baseball, Bill and Sally Bird, Primo Camera, Casanova, Christian Endeavor Societies, Jean Cocteau, The Dain Curse, Chink Dorman– Smith, race horses, T.S. Eliot, Waldo Frank, painters, homosexuals, New Humanists, the League of Nations, Longfellow, Julius Meier-Graefe, Noy de Sucre, Mungo Park, Jinny Pfeiffer, S 4 N, Evan Shipman, and Yale in China are some of the nontaurine annotations, all of which make the Hemingway connection, and most of which either jog one’s memory or bring new information. The essay– length entry for Deva, for example, provides us with a full explanation and correction of Hemingway’s cryptic reference on page 274 of Death in the Afternoon.

Because Mandel’s research is so thorough and her mastery so complete, she does not hesitate to take issue with Hemingway on matters both large and small, whether correcting him on Pedro Romero’s age at his death or refuting some of his pet taurine theories that do not accord with the history of the corrida. In fact, one is likely to have a lower estimate of Hemingway as aficionado after going through the evidence of The Complete Annotations.

As distinguished a work of scholarship as Mandel’s book is, a reviewer may point out some minor problems such as three typographical errors: “swordword” for swordwork (253), “Fracuelo” for Frascuelo (385), “stil” for still (502). Slightly more serious is the gender confusion about Jean Toomer, a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Despite the spelling of his first name, Toomer, who does not appear in the index, was male (371, 377). As a native speaker deeply immersed in Spanish history and culture, Mandel’s translations to English are always accurate and, with a single exception, felicitous. Reporting that Spanish critics called Luis Freg don Valor and don Voluntad, she renders the latter as Mr. Eager Beaver. Surely Mr. Committed would be better.

But Mexico is another country. Mandel’s statement that “Gaona soon established himself in Mexico and several neighboring countries seems dubious, for these countries are the United States and Guatemala, hardly propitious venues for a rising diestro. And the great upheaval that began in 1910, shortly after Gaona went to Spain, was a full-scale social revolution-the first of the 20th century-against a ruthlessly repressive regime, not a “civil war” as Mandel calls it more than once. Hemingway himself once declared that Pancho Villa was his “new god. She also ignores the substantial social progress in agrarian reform, public education, and social services made possible by the revolution, especially during the presidency of Lazaro Cardenas. But enough of this quibbling and political argument. Mandel has labored for years to research and write a book that is a model of historical, literary, and taurine research, a vade mecum for all readers of Death in theAfternoon, and surely one of the four or five most important books on our author.

One cannot end a review of a work of such rigorous scholarship without mention of the moving personal revelation of its preface. There we learn that as an Israeli citizen, daughter of parents “displaced and fatally scarred by the Holocaust,’ Mandel was attracted to Spain’s fiesta national first for its emphasis on skill in achieving survival, but beyond that to the triumph “over mortal danger with passion and grace, creating beauty so poignant that it becomes ecstasy.” Few have said it better.

Orejas y rabo a Miriam Mandel!

-Keneth Kinnamon, University of Arkansas

Copyright The Hemingway Review Fall 2002

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