Hemingway was ending the first stage of his career as a writer. Before the final break up with the Toronto Star, however, he produced what are among two of his best pieces of writing as a young journalist. “Bullfighting is Not a Sport – It is a Tragedy” recreates his trip with a friend to see bullfights in Madrid. It is the first time Hemingway watched the Spanish spectacle that shaped the narrative of his first novel The Sun Also Rises and his later non-fiction book Death in the Afternoon. He writes,
“I am not going to apologize for bullfighting. It is a survival of the days of the Roman Colosseum. But it does need some explanation. Bullfighting is not a sport. It was never supposed to be. It is a tragedy. A very great tragedy. The tragedy is the death of the bull.”
His second piece on bullfighting for the Star was “Pamplona in July.” Traveling with his wife this time, who he snipingly calls “Herself” throughout the article, Hemingway attends Spain’s most famous “running of the bulls” at the San Fermín festival in Pamplona. Here, Hemingway says he watched “the greatest bull fight I will perhaps ever see,” as the torero Maera escaped death “twenty times” in front of twenty-thousand fans.
In the last paragraph of this article, however, Hemingway lets his readers know he is writing from an office in North America. His final sentences ache with a longing to quit and get back to Europe. A few months later he would.
A Simple Declarative Sentence
In 1926, Hemingway published The Sun Also Rises and from then on he was a literary sensation. He would return to journalism – and do exceptional reporting – in the 1930s and 1940s as a writer for Esquire, The New Republic, and Life. But that writing differed from his youthful newspaper work. By then he was a famous writer.
Decades later, months before he would receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, Hemingway was interviewed by the Paris Review. The interviewer asked him about his time as a young a journalist in Kansas City, and Hemingway answered, “On the Star you were forced to learn to write a simple declarative sentence. This is useful to anyone.”
Next, check out 21 of the most powerful Ernest Hemingway quotes.