You Never Imagined Any Such Power

Cambridge University Press is publishing The Letters of Ernest Hemingway in a multi-volume series. Volume Two contains his letter from 1923 through 1925. (Pretty important years!) I’m loving volume two of the letters. You can learn a  lot from someone’s letters. Consider this from July, 1923, in a letter to Greg Clark of the Toronto Star: (My italics):

“The tragedy is the death of the bull—the inevitable death of the bull, the terrible, almost prehistoric bull that runs with a soft, light run, can whirl like a cat, is death right up until he is absolutely dead himself and is stupid and brave as the people of any country and altogether wonderful and horrifying. You never imagined any such power. Well the whole thing is his life and death and the horses, picadors and occasional toreros he takes off with him are only incidental. It’s not like the French duel. I saw 3 matadors badly gored out of 24 bulls killed.”

Here in a short pithy paragraph is what drew and fascinated him. And that sentence that I italicized is the essence of his fascination, I think. If it were widely understood, an awful lot of critical bullshit would have been saved for the roses. You never imagined any such power.

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