Obituary: Dominguin

Others have written about the public part of Luis Miguel Dominguin's fame - as a rich and celebrated torero, married to a star, friend of the famous and the powerful, from Picasso to Franco; pick a cliche and you could hardly go wrong, writes Keith Botsford [further to the obituary by Liz Nash, 9 May].

That life, part "creation", part publicity, part pure fantasy, existed; it was also only a small part of the man. I knew him, I think, rather better than most; he was my fourth son's godfather and I wrote a book about him, 24 years ago now. That is, he and I sat in the Hotel Suecia in Madrid, and at his finca in Andalucia, for some weeks, and he talked and I listened.

I had never met an athlete then, nor one since, who could come close to his innate intelligence. In that sense, the fact that he was a bullfighter was an anomaly, for he could have been anything. But a very fine bullfighter he was: precisely because he was intelligent, and innocent and passionate, and respectful of his adversary who was an animal, in the same way that Luis Miguel could be, a creature of instinct with a deep desire to survive.

He was certainly the best tor-ero I saw in the ring in some 40 years. It was like watching a seduction, a deadly flirtation; the risk appalled him and it appealed to him: "Man and bull and public assemble in one place for one purpose: to see the bull killed. The arena is the place in which we are all going to be judged." And of course only one can come out alive. That is drama of an antic kind, and Luis Miguel exploited it better than any other fighter I saw.

Not only was he brave, he was also knowing, and could make connections. Next door to the hotel the Madrid Opera chorus was rehearsing Don Giovanni; over and over again they sang "Viva, viva, viva la liberta". Luis Miguel sat on the end of the bed, shoeless: "Every wound I bear is inscribed with the name of a woman," he said. "The bulls knew, they knew that on the day I was a loser, I was thinking about something else, and the bulls were jealous. I wasn't paying them the attention they thought they deserved, and they got me for it."

I don't think Luis Miguel liked writing the book: he felt he was giving something away. At the same time, it was an opportunity to think about his life.

When he broke up with the lovely Lucia, it was because she had put a house around his free soul. A house that had marble and a big bedroom and baths, from which he would flee to sleep in a hut outside. Anything that had to be done was a constraint. Constraints were bad, they were obligations, and when he saw a constraint, he fled.

I asked him once if he regretted anything in his life and he answered - a maxim from which I have learned much - que no hay errores en la vida, "that there are no mistakes in life". That one has lived the life one had to live as well as one could.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Austen Lloyd: Practice / HR Manager - Somerset

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A rare and exciting opportunity for a Practice...

Ashdown Group: HR Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A mainstream Secondary school in C...

Guru Careers: HR Administrator / Training Coordinator

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: An HR Administrator / Training Coordinator is requi...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food