The Modern Theme

The Modern Theme

The Modern Theme

The Modern Theme

Excerpt

José Ortega y Gasset, more than anyone else, was responsible for launching, in 1917, what during the twenties and early thirties became one of Europe's finest newspapers: El Sol, of Madrid. Following Ortega's injunctions, its editors and contributors were intent on turning Spain into a full-fledged member of the European cultural community. One of the consequences of the policy which they adopted was a sharp antipathy toward bull-fighting. The paper did not have a section on bull-fights. Furthermore, its editors staunchly refused advertising which was connected, however remotely, with the fiesta. Only when a matador or a picador was injured, or killed, would the paper print in a corner of one of its last pages an inconspicuous news item under the heading: "The so-called national pastime."

Paradoxically enough, Ortega was an aficionado. To the dismay of not a few of his friends and colleagues, he was often seen watching the performances of Spanish toreros. He became a close friend of some of them. He frankly loathed spinsters who showed more concern for the misery of the bulls than the agonies of the bull-fighters. He impatiently denounced as sheer hypocrites those who campaigned against bull-fighting while lending an eager ear to reports of sadistic crimes. If all this were not enough, he toyed with the project of writing a book, tentatively entitled Paquiro o de las corridas de toros (Paquiro or About Bull-Fighting), which would show the meaning and depth of the "dramatic relationship which has existed for more than two thousand years between the Spaniard and the bull." If we take into account that campaigning against bull-fighting had been in Spain one of the trademarks of the so-called "Europeanizers," it would seem that Ortega, the "Europeanizer" par excellence, was in this respect a far more radical "de-Europeanizer" and "Africanizer" than Unamuno, who had bluntly opposed Spain to Europe, but who apparently had never watched a corrida and who never wrote on, and never talked about, bulls and bull-fighters except to express a profound distaste for the whole subject.

I am unable to judge to what extent Ortega was completely sincere . . .

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