One of the ways to judge the success of a non-fiction book is to first read the introduction carefully, that section of the book where the author generally outlines his or her goals for the literary undertaking. Then, after reading the final sentence of the text, one should read the introduction again. If, at that time one feels that one has gained the knowledge about the subjects that the author promised to address in the introduction, and if one has enjoyed learning about it, the book is a good one. Authors are often very ambitious and they promise more than they can deliver. Then the reader is left with a feeling of disappointment. This is not the case with Muriel Feiner's work since she delivers in LOS PROTAGONISTAS DE LA FIESTA everything, and more, than the goals she sets in her introduction. Furthermore, as a reader who has also been a protagonist of the world of bullfighting, I should say that my knowledge of bullfighting was broadened with the pleasurable reading of Feiner's prose.
LOS PROTAGONISTAS DE LA FIESTA I. EL TORO, EL TORERO Y SU ENTORNO (THE PROTAGONISTS OF THE FIESTA I. THE BULL, THE BULLFIGHTHER AND HIS ENTOURAGE)
By Muriel Feiner
Alianza Editorial S.A., Madrid, Spain, 2000
THE TOREO FROM THE INSIDE OUT by Mario Carrión
LOS PROTAGONISTAS is a book that describes the tauromaquia from inside out as seen through the eyes and interpreted by the minds of the professionals who by playing a more or less significant role, make the corridas possible. Muriel has wisely chosen to interview some persons who represent different professional facets of bullfighting. She has held dialogues with big stars such as matadors "Antoñete" and Enrique Ponce, three rejoneadors of the Domech clan, bull breeders Eduardo Miura and Victorino Martín and manager Manuel Camará. She has also interviewed novilleros, banderilleros, picadors, sword handlers, managers, veterinarians, bullfighting tailors and other professionals, whose names mean little or nothing to the general public, but whose opinions on the toreo are as interesting as those of the well-known personalities, or perhaps more, because we rarely hear what those people have to say. The author has skillfully gained the confidence of her subjects, who most frequently are reserved with the media personnel, and she created a mutual trust in which the interviewees not only answered her leading questions, but spoke freely discussing their careers, their experiences and tauromaquia in general.
Interviewing is the job of a newsperson such as Muriel who does it well. One interview in a magazine can be interesting, but a series of them compressed into a book can be dull. This is where the literary skill of the author has excelled. Muriel has converted the interview raw material into an easy to read prose with the words and thoughts of the 'protagonists' interwoven with Muriel's creative narrative. The typical question-answer format does not appear in the book. On the contrary, the parts of the text containing the expressions of the subjects are unified by Muriel clarifying words, sentences and even paragraphs in which she presents short biographical sketches of the interviewees, elicits their answers, and expands or clarifies the content when necessary. The result is an interesting text that contains the ideas and feelings expressed by the 'protagonists' in their interviews, but which are revealed, clarified, and expanded by the fluid and expository prose of Muriel Feiner.
Muriel is clear in her Introduction about her undertaking. This is part of what she says:
We offer a profound and intimate vision of the corrida, with a prolonged visit 'behind the scenes' to discover facets of the spectacle, to which the spectator and the aficionado do not usually have access. The internal details of the fiesta will be exposed by means of the testimonies of its protagonists, who will reveal their own histories, experiences, professional secrets and anecdotes…
LOS PROTAGONISTAS DE LA FIESTA is the first issue of Muriel's two book series. The second book is probably in bookstores at this writing. The text of this first book is divided into a prologue, an introduction and three chapters. In the first chapter, El toro, we read about the people who are in contact with the bull in the field, three bull breeders and a bull ranch overseer, and a veterinarian, whose job is to check the conditions of the bulls before they are fought. The second chapter, El torero, which is the more extensive, deals with matadors, novilleros, rejoneadors , banderilleros, picadors, and even a clown bullfighter. In other words, with the professionals who confront the bulls in the arena. In the last chapter, En torno al maestro, the thoughts about the fiesta are expressed by one manager, one sword handler and one bullfighter tailor that are persons who, without facing the bull, help the matadors and contribute to the outcome of the corrida. All these characters, each from a different perspective, have much to tell us about bullfighting, and by the enthusiastic way in which they relate their experiences or express their opinions, they convey the feeling that they are proud of and love what that they do, regardless of the relative importance of their functions.
Retired matador Victoriano Valencia, former manager of Julio Robles, José Ortega Cano, "El Juli" and current manager of "El Cordobés", wrote the prologue. He comments about the 'foreigners' who have contributed to the worldwide promotion of bullfighting. He mentions a few Americans: Hemingway, Orson Welles, John Fulton and Robert Ryan, and then he highlights the achievements of Feiner as a taurine author, praising her on her successful debut with LA MUJER EN EL MUNDO DE LOS TOROS (Women in the Bullfighting World). Then, he states about her new book that he is introducing:
Muriel has taken a step forward, she has again proven herself in the literary arena embracing the new aventure that is her new book, where she covers and explains everything about bullfighting. This is not the literature of a foreigner who suddenly finds herself at the crossroads of the world of bullfighting. It is the literature of an author who with her opinions and explanations, offers a guide for those traveling past the bullring…I was lucky that I was chosen to 'hacer el paseillo' in her pages…I accepted because I became absorbed in the reading of its magnificent pages, which maintain a tense attention, and are going to revel very important facts of our job, and our aficion, to those who come close to this book.
The author and her PROTAGONISTAS OF THE FIESTA could not have received better words of praise, since they were written by one of the most knowledgeable persons of the bullfighting world. To end this review of a book of great merit for taurine literature, and an honor for the TBA members, since Muriel is one of us, I will rephrase in English, and take as mine, the final words of my old friend Victoriano Valencia in his Prologue. He says, and I agree, that "I started to read this book with curiosity, I continued to read it with pleasure, and ended with admiration."
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