Maia (Teresa) Wojciechowska Emily Maxwell - Essay

Emily Maxwell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Shadow of a Bull"] is about a little Spanish town whose heart is the market place and whose soul is the bull ring. The hero—or anti-hero—is the ten-year-old son of a famous bull-fighter. In the main square is a huge statue of his father, and in the cemetery, marking his father's grave, is another. The boy was three when his father was killed in the ring, and doesn't even remember him. Because of his father, he is treated with more respect than other boys, he is taken to the bullfights, he is allowed to see the bullfighters dressing and eating and waiting their turn in the ring, and to listen to their conversation. The men of the town talk to him incessantly of his father, and though he is unable to summon the courage to jump from a hay wagon with the other boys, he is expected to enter the bull ring alone when he is twelve and kill his first bull…. He wishes that he had not been born the son of his father, that he had not been born at all. It is a theme worthy of [Joseph] Conrad. The book's only weakness is its ending. So often, good fiction for children has a contrived ending—as if a book were a nursery that had to be tidied up, and the characters put back on their proper shelves, and the door firmly closed. But then the same thing is true of fiction for adults. Miss Wojciechowska knows everything there is to know about bullfighting and a lot about fear and courage.

Emily Maxwell, in her review of "Shadow of a Bull," in The New Yorker (© 1964 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), Vol. XL, No. 42, December 5, 1964, pp. 224-25.