About The Book

Shortlisted for

“Most inspiring sports book for Christmas” Sunday Times 2011
“Sports Books for Christmas” Sunday Telegraph 2011
“Best summer holiday reads” Sunday Telegraph 2011
“Essential summer reading” Sunday Times 2011

“Complex and ambitious. Compelling and lyrical.”
Mail on Sunday *****
“An engrossing introduction to Spain’s ‘great feast of art and danger’…brilliantly capturing a fascinating, intoxicating culture.”
Sunday Times
“A compelling read, unusual for its genre, exalting the bullfight as pure theatre.”
Sunday Telegraph
“An informed piece of work on a subject about which we are all expected to have a view.”
Daily Mail
“Thrilling. An engrossing introduction to bullfighting.”
Financial Times
“Fantastic. A fascinating insight into a world we know little about but are quick to judge.”
Metro

“An informative and breathtaking volume of gonzo journalism”
The Herald (Scotland)
“Intoxicating. Pulses with the writer’s love of the world and the people he has found himself among.”
The Australian (Australia)
“A thoughtful, well-researched and deeply felt investigation… vivid evocations of men who risk their lives in a beautiful, vulgar battle with the bulls.”
The Prague Post (Czech Republic)

“An entertaining account seeks a demonstration of the values which distinguish bullfighting from butchery.”
The Spectator
“Particularly good. Transposes spectacle into words with great success, conveying the drama with eloquence and precision.”
Literary Review
“An engaging adventure story of a young man pursuing a dream with determination and courage.”
The Times Literary Supplement

“To his credit, Fiske-Harrison acknowledges the morally questionable nature of the bullfight. And the book contains interesting explorations of concepts such as fear, bravery and drive.”
League Against Cruel Sports
“A larger than life character. A hugely enjoyable and easy read. Moving and instructive.”
Club Taurino of London
“One of the most engaging books on the Bulls I have ever read. One feels every failure, every success, every thrill.”
Taurine Bibliophiles of America

(for full reviews, see post list on top right of page)

Into The Arena is available in paperback or as an e-Book on Kindle from Amazon (in the US here, the UK here, Australia, Canada India, Spain, Mexico, France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Brazil) and iTunes (as recommended by Condé Nast’s GQ magazine here.

From the front cover:

A hero from another age, a fearless Englishman touched by madness. This endeavour owes as much to Captain Oates as to Ernest Hemingway, as much to Flashman as to Don Quixote.
Giles Coren, columnist for The Times

Arguably the most engaging study of bullfighting by an English speaker since Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon. His willingness to get his hands dirty, and his eye for detail, make this a compelling read for anyone interested in Spain’s ‘national fiesta’. Controversial, thought-provoking and highly recommended.
Jason Webster, author of Duende: A Journey In Search Of Flamenco

Bold, provocative and morally searching, Fiske-Harrison writes about the bizarre and arrogant world of bullfighting with passion, deep knowledge, and readiness to risk his own neck in the arena. His descriptions lucidly capture the near indescribable thrills of the corrida.
Michael Jacobs, author of Factory Of Light: Life In An Andalucian Village

Fiske-Harrison, red and white blazer right, runs with the bulls in Pamplona (Photo: Reuters)

From the back cover:

Alexander Fiske-Harrison spent a season studying and travelling with the matadors and breeders of famous “fighting bulls” of Spain (and France and Portugal. ) He ran with the bulls in Pamplona and found himself invited to join his new friends in the ring with 500lb training cows. This developed into a personal quest to understand the bullfight at its deepest levels, and he entered into months of damaging and dangerous training with one of the greatest matadors of all, Eduardo Dávila Miura, to prepare himself to experience the bullfight in its true essence: that of man against bull in a life or death struggle from which only one can emerge alive.

Fiske-Harrison with a three-year old, 330kg fighting bull (Photo: Nicolás Haro)

Excerpt from Chapter 2: Meeting The Bull:

“The sensation of being the focus of such fury is a unique one. I stopped halfway along the wall, slowly turned, put my hands on the safety-rail and looked down at the explosive paranoia of horn and muscle less than five feet away from me. I moved the little finger of my left hand and his head flicked towards it. Then I moved the little finger on my right, and his head shot towards that. I kept my movement-level low, trying to gauge it so that I kept his attention but didn’t exceed whatever psychological tipping point existed within that bovine brain. My overwhelming feeling at that moment was of smiling and thinking, perversely you may say, that this was an experience I would like to take further. However, it was enough for a first meeting with a bull.”

From inside the cover:

“The bullfighter-philosopher.”
John-Paul Flintoff in The Times.

“Whether or not the artistic quality of the bullfight outweighs the moral question of the animals’ suffering is something that each person must decide for themselves – as they must decide whether the taste of a steak justifies the death of a cow. But if we ignore the possibility that one does outweigh the other, we fall foul of the charge of self-deceit and incoherence in our dealings with animals.”
Alexander Fiske-Harrison (writing in Prospect magazine in 2008)

“It is one of the best pieces ever written on the subject. An almost literally terrific piece of work.”
Frederic Raphael (on Fiske-Harrison’s 2008 essay).

Alexander Fiske-Harrison (personal website here) was born in 1976 and is an English writer and actor. He studied biology and then philosophy at the universities of Oxford and London and trained in acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York. He has written for The Times, Financial Times, The TLS and Prospect magazine. He wrote, and acted in, The Pendulum which debuted in London’s West End in 2008.

Awards, Shortlistings and Listings

Shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2011

Sport books of the year

Sunday Times: Nick Pitt, December 4th, 2011 [Read more…]

Reviews in the National Press

Mail on Sunday: James Owen, July 10th, 2011

Where Hemingway feared to tread

Into The Arena by Alexander Fiske-Harrison

* * * * *

Whatever you think of Alexander Fiske-Harrison’s account of his quest to become a bullfighter, you have to admire his guts. Not literally, happily, but there are times in his year as an amateur matador in Spain in which he seems likely to learn first-hand how cruel the arena can be. [Read more…]