…Besides all that, Hemingway was committed to his public image. He was also weary of it and fatigued by its constant demands. Perhaps. But it was bigger than him and could lead him by the nose; as a fisherman he snapped at its bait hook,line and sinker and as wild game, he was bagged and sacrificed for it. Still, it had immense rewards to offer him.
What proved to be the greatest of these, and the last that he truly enjoyed, was a triumphal visit to Spain in the summer of 1959. Hemingway toured the country with Antonio Ordonez, who was competing mano a mano with his brother-in-law Luis Miguel Dominguin for recognition as the number one matador. Antonio was the son of Cayetano Ordonez, who had been portrayed in The Sun Also Rises as the heroic Pedro Romero, and Ernest felt a paternal pride in his exploits.
Everywhere Hemingway and the younger Ordonez went, they were cheered by the crowds. At Pamplona, where they spent the week of the feria, July 6 to 12, the crowds were bigger than ever and Hemingway was mobbed by younger admirers, including pretty girls. He found time, though, for picnics on the Irati River, where the trout had come back and some of the virgin beech forest was still standing. “Make it all come true again,” he had prayed at the end of Death in the Afternoon. Most of it came true during that week in Pamplona, with adulatory crowds in the background. “You know,” he said to Aaron Hotchner, “it’s all better than The Sun Also Rises.”
Later, at Malaga, there was his sixtieth birthday party, which lasted for twenty-four hours, with champagne from Paris, Chinese foods from London, fireworks from Valencia, and a shooting booth from a traveling carnival. Ordonez and the Maharajah of Coch Behar stood meekly in the booth while Ernest shot cigarettes from between their lips; then Ernest organized the guests into a riau-riau that snaked through the shrubbery. A rocket lodged in the top of a royal palm and blazed there until the fire department arrived in a truck that it must have borrowed from a Mack Sennet comedy. The guests stayed for breakfast. It might have been all the grand parties of the 1920’s packed into one, and it was Ernest Hemingway’s valedictory.
Afterwards, everything turned bitter. The competition between the two great matadors ended when Dominguin was badly gored. Ordonez spent a month in jail for using picadors who had been suspended. Hemingway went back to Idaho and then to Havana to write a story of the trip for Life Magazine. The story got out of control and became a rambling boastful manuscript nearly three times as long as the forty thousand words that Life had agreed to print. …( to be continued)…