Book Review – ALEX y ROBERT by Wena Poon

November 27, 2013

Bullfighting is a practice (I hesitate to call it a sport) which a great many people find distasteful and is often condemned.  I was taken as a teenager by my father along with my brother to bullfights in Barcelona and Terragona in the 1960s and found the process of killing six animals one after the other repetitive, boring and thought it an unnecessary way of dispatching animals.  I certainly did not think of it as sport or indeed art but perhaps this was because I was not brought up in that culture.  The most famous writings on the subject are those of Ernest Hemingway but I am not sure reading those works will provide much enlightenment.

Many domestic animals would not exist if we did not keep them to kill and eat.  Even if a person is a meat eater or a vegetarian, they perhaps at some stage in their lives should witness an animal being killed so they can appreciate the spirituality of the event.  When I witnessed bullfighting I confess that I could not tell if the bull was suffering.  It was apparent that it felt pain and there was blood.  But is the infliction of pain always wrong and the animal experiencing that pain suffering torture?  I must admit to wanting to strike a doctor who jabbed my newborn daughter in the foot with a needle to deliberately draw blood for a biomedical test.  She certainly felt pain, did not understand why it happened and cried.

ALEX y ROBERT does not go into any great detail about bullfights and is more about culture and tradition, its relevance to modern times and the role of men and women in that culture.  The characters are beautifully drawn.  Alex is a feisty young woman of Spanish origin brought up in the USA and determined to break into a male dominated world because the life of the matador is an integral part of her family’s past.  She is managed by Roberto, a retired matador of her own age, because their childhood experiences are intertwined.  It is an extremely good read and I am not surprised that it was chosen as a BBC Radio 4 Book At Bedtime.

Alex y Robert Cover

Alex y Robert by Wena Poon is available in Paperback and for Kindle from Salt Publishing

 Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press.