The Arty Semite

Jews and Bulls: A French Philosopher Defends the Corrida

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

When Jews try to fight bulls, the results can end in tears, but the simple desire to watch bullfights has a more ambiguous outcome, as proven by the latest book by the French Jewish philosopher Francis Wolff.

An author of academic works on Aristotle and Socrates who teaches in Paris, Wolff should not be confused with the late German Jewish jazz photographer of the same name. France’s Francis Wolff has organized seminars in honor of Jacques Derrida, but he is more noted — or notorious — for his defense of bullfighting, both in France and Spain.

As a follow-up to his 2007 “Philosophy of the Corrida” from Les éditions Fayard, Woolf, who frequently lectures on bullfighting’s ethics and aesthetics, has just published a new short book, “50 Reasons to Defend the Corrida” with Mille et une nuits/Fayard éditions.

European talk radio hosts report, according to Wolff, that only two topics incite home listeners to write thousands of angry letters: the “corrida and (I’m ashamed to link the two, but so goes human nature) the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.” Wolff adds that “disproportionate” responses in the context of vast worldwide suffering are “always irrational.”

Wolff scorns animal rights activists who dare to compare bullfighting to Nazism, hyperbole that he describes as “approaching a kind of Holocaust denial.” While bullfighting was exploited as a popular spectacle by Spain’s dictator Franco, Wolff notes, it is not inherently fascist. Instead, Wolff states, like religion in Karl Marx’s famous definition, bullfighting may be the “opium of the people…the spirit of a heartless world.”

Wolff warns against blaming bullfighting on the “dark history of Spain,” along with tragedies like the 1492 Jewish Expulsion, or the Inquisition. Instead he cites creative personalities, many of them Jewish, who have been inspired by the corrida, including the Belgian painter of Russian Jewish origin Pierre Alechinsky, author Gertrude Stein, and the filmmakers Sergei Eisenstein and Abel Gance.

Preferring “ceremonial rituals” like bullfighting over “pagan rites,” Wolff asks if we ban bullfighting, “who or what will be banned tomorrow?” Wolff compares those who wish to ban the corrida outright with the Afghan Taliban who destroyed giant statues of the Buddha, even linking bullfighting and Buddhism as being “deeply rooted in history and inserted into today’s modernity.”

Wolff may not cause many animal rights activists (or Buddhists) to shout “¡Olé!” but he has eloquently argued his case.

Watch Francis Woolf discourse in 2009 on the relationship between man and animal:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Francis Wolff, Corrida, Bull fighting

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.