Alexander Fiske-Harrison

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Alexander Fiske-Harrison
AF-H writing by Paloma.jpg
Born (1976-07-22) 22 July 1976 (age 38)
Occupation writer, actor

Alexander Rupert Fiske-Harrison (born 22 July 1976) is an English writer and actor. He is best known for writing and acting in The Pendulum in London's West End[1] and has been called "the bullfighter-philosopher"[2] by The Times of London for his research – theoretical and practical – into bullfighting for his book Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight[3] which was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2011.

Background & Personal Life[edit]

He is the youngest son of Clive Fiske Harrison.[4][5] His brother Jules William Fiske Harrison was, according to The Times, a "famously skilled and fearless skiier" who died in a skiing accident in Zermatt, Switzerland in 1988.[6]

Fiske-Harrison was educated at Eton and the University of Oxford, and as a posgraduate at the London School of Economics and Political Science.[7] He also trained at the Method acting school, the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York City when Marlon Brando was its chairman.[8]

He has been friends since Oxford with British actor Hugh Dancy,[9] and his wife, Claire Danes, who appear in his book Into The Arena.[10]


Fiske-Harrison contributes to The Times,[11] Financial Times,[12] Daily Telegraph,[13] GQ[14] The Spectator,[15] The Times Literary Supplement,[16] and Prospect magazines.[17]

He has appeared on the BBC,[18] CNN,[19] Al-Jazeera,[20] Discovery Channel,[21] and US National Public Radio.[22]

He has also contributed in Spanish to ABC[23] and El Norte de Castilla.[24]


Fiske-Harrison toreando, 'bullfighting', in Palma del Río, Córdoba province, Spain

A controversial essay on bullfighting for Prospect magazine[25] in September 2008 led Fiske-Harrison to move to Spain to further research the topic. He lived, trained and fought with matadors including the one-eyed Juan José Padilla, Cayetano Rivera Ordóñez – whose father Paquirri was killed in the ring, and grandfather Antonio Ordóñez the subject of Hemingway's The Dangerous Summer – and Eduardo Dávila Miura of the famous Miura bull family. He wrote his experiences up on his blog The Last Arena: In Search of the Spanish Bullfight.[26] In September 2009 the journalist Giles Coren visited him in Spain and described him as: "Very brave. Very British. Very Charge of the Light Brigade. Very trenches. Very scary."[27]


Fiske-Harrison, circled, running among the bulls of Torrestrella on calle Estafeta in Pamplona

Since 2009 Fiske-Harrison has run with the bulls in Pamplona,[28][29] where he is a part of the 'Runners Team of the World',[30] and since 2012 in the town of Cuéllar in Old Castile,[31][32] which hosts the oldest encierro, 'bull-run' in Spain,[33] and where he was awarded a prize for the "divulgación" of the encierros in 2013.[34]

Into The Arena[edit]

In 2011 Profile Books published his Into The Arena: The World of the Spanish Bullfight. The Mail on Sunday gave it four stars, saying, "his descriptions of the fights are compelling and lyrical... One begins to understand what has captivated Spaniards for centuries."[35] The Sunday Times said that "it provides an engrossing introduction to Spain's 'great feast of art and danger'",[36] the Sunday Telegraph said, it was "a compelling read, unusual for its genre, exalting the bullfight as pure theatre,"[37] and the Financial Times called it, "an engrossing introduction to bullfighting."[38]

In answer to Animal Welfare and Animal Rights concerns, the Daily Mail said that although Fiske-Harrison "develops a taste for the whole gruesome spectacle, what makes the book work is that he never loses his disgust for it,"[39] the Financial Times said, "it's to Fiske-Harrison's credit that he never quite gets over his moral qualms about bullfighting," and the Literary Review concluded: "The question of whether a modern society should endorse animal suffering as entertainment is bound to cross the mind of any casual visitor to a bullfight. Alexander Fiske-Harrison first tussled with the issue in his early twenties and, as a student of both philosophy and biology, has perhaps tussled with it more lengthily and cogently than most of us."[40]

It was selected by Sunday Telegraph as a "best summer holiday read"[41] and the Sunday Times as one of the summer's "essential travel book list."[42] It was shortlisted for William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2011.[43] Both the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph went on to recommend it among their sports books of the year.[44][45]

Further writing[edit]

Fiske-Harrison has contributed to various anthologies on 'the world of the bulls', including Olé: Capturing The Passion of Bullfighters And Aficionados in the 21st Century and Running The Bulls With Hemingway & Other Pamplona Tales.[46]


Fiske-Harrison's acting debut was as Govianus in The Second Maiden's Tragedy at the Hackney Empire theatre in London.[47] He has also acted on the German stage.[48]

The Pendulum[edit]

The Pendulum
The Pendulum - Before The Duel (small).JPG
Alexander Fiske-Harrison & Gareth Kennerley
Written by Alexander Fiske-Harrison
Date premiered 3 June 2008
Place premiered Jermyn Street Theatre, West End, London

The play is a two-act four-hander set in 1900 Vienna. Its first production was in the summer of 2008 at the Jermyn Street Theatre, in London's West End.[49]

Michael Billington in The Guardian gave it three stars and said, "Fiske-Harrison has clearly done his homework: he understands, for instance, the tensions between Franz Joseph’s imperial benevolence and the antisemitism of Vienna’s populist mayor, Karl Lueger. The author himself plays the disintegrating hero with the right poker-backed irascibility... while it is refreshing to find a new play that gets away from bedsit angst, one wonders why Fiske-Harrison has tackled this subject now. If there are contemporary parallels, they are not obvious, and one comes away with the sensation of having seen an accomplished, but oddly impersonal, historical play."[50] The Sunday Times described it as "something earnest, nicely acted – if a little contained – but as far from the wildness of Schnitzler or the darkness of Schiele as you can possibly imagine".[51]


  1. ^ Compston, Harriet. Arts Scene: Drama: 'Hottie Ahoy!', Conde Nast's Tatler. July 2008
  2. ^ Flintoff, John-Paul. Today's toffs: tough, violent, amoral?, The Times. 18 May 2010
  3. ^ Walker,Tim. 'Eton gets bullish', Daily Telegraph. 9 August 2009
  4. ^ Winter, Laura. "Clive Fiske Harrison". Debrett's People of Today 2012
  5. ^ Fiske Harrison of Layer de la Haye Burke's Peerage
  6. ^ Coren, Giles. 'How do I hate skiing?', The Times 21 March 2009
  7. ^ Fiske Harrison of Layer de la Haye Burke's Peerage
  8. ^ Profile Books Author page Alexander Fiske-Harrison
  9. ^ Alexander Fiske-Harrison's Biography at IMDb
  10. ^ Coren, Giles. 'Mad bulls and Englishmen', The Times 26 December 2009
  11. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'Who to back in the Grand National? Not the tipsters' The Times. 12 April 2012
  12. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander. 'Talking with apes', Financial Times. 24 November 2001
  13. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'To the Spanish bullfighting is much more than just a sport' Daily Telegraph. 25 November 2011
  14. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'The Last Matador', GQ. September 2012
  15. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'Warrior: The Story of the real warhorse', The Spectator, 21 January 2012
  16. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander. 'Can computers converse?', The Times Literary Supplement. 9 June 2000
  17. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander. 'On Philosophers and Wolves', Prospect. 22 January 2009
  18. ^ Lewis, Alun 'testbeds: Artificial Intelligence', BBC Radio 4, 17 February 2000
  19. ^ 'The future of bullfighting in Spain', CNN, 28 July 2010
  20. ^ [1] 'Bullfighting debate with Alexander Fiske-Harrison and Jordi Casamitjana', Al-Jazeera, September 2008
  21. ^ Frayer, Lauren [2] 'World's Scariest Animal Attacks', Mentorn TV. 16 August 2012
  22. ^ Bullfighting in Spain Stays Alive Despite Regional Ban', NPR. 28 September 2011.
  23. ^ Pina, Marina 'De Eton a Cuéllar, en un solo encierro', ABC. 31 August 2013
  24. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'Gracias, Cuéllar, desde Londres' El Norte de Castilla. 3 September 2012
  25. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander. 'A Noble Death', Prospect. September 2008
  26. ^ Davis, Clive. 'In the arena', The Spectator. 2 March 2009
  27. ^ Coren, Giles. 'Mad bulls and Englishmen', The Times 26 December 2009
  28. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'A Good Run', The Spectator, 14 July 2012
  29. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander [3], The Spectator, 26 October 2013
  30. ^ 7del7 Runner Team del Mundo
  31. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'Gracias, Cuéllar, desde Londres', 'El Norte de Castilla', 3 September 2012
  32. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'Y una vez más,gracias, Cuéllar, desde Londres', 'El Norte de Castilla', 2 September 2013
  33. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'The real, old stuff', Financial Times, 31 May 2013
  34. ^ Ernes 'Galardonados con el trofeo Ehtoro a la divulgación del encierro de Cuéllar',, 27 June 2013
  35. ^ Owen, James 'Where Hemingway Feared To Tread', Mail on Sunday. 10 July 2011
  36. ^ Schofield, Brian 'Review: Into The Arena by Alexander Fiske-Harrison', Sunday Times. 29 May 2011
  37. ^ Brown, Oliver 'Books for Christmas: Sport Books: Into The Arena', Sunday Telegraph. 27 November 2011
  38. ^ Eltringham, Dan 'Books: Non-fiction: Into The Arena', Financial Times. 4 June 2011
  39. ^ Palmer, Mark 'Etonian Matador Who Triumphs In The Bullring' Daily Mail. 26 May 2011
  40. ^ France, Miranda 'Blood, Sweat and tears', Literary Review. August 2011
  41. ^ Kerr, Michael 'The best summer holiday reads', Sunday Telegraph. 8 July 2011
  42. ^ Sattin, Anthony and Schofield, Brian 'Summer reads for travellers', Sunday Times. 19 June 2011
  43. ^ Fiske-Harrison, Alexander 'To the Spanish bullfighting is much more than a sport' Daily Telegraph. 26 November 2011
  44. ^ Pitt, Nick 'Sports Books Of The Year', Sunday Times. 4 December 2011
  45. ^ Brown, Oliver 'Books for Christmas: Sport', Sunday Telegraph, 27 November 2011
  46. ^ Amazon Author Page for Alexander Fiske-Harrison
  47. ^ London Theatre Database page
  48. ^ "'Alone Together':Familienkomödie im English Theatre", Die Welt. 23 November 2007
  49. ^
  50. ^ Billington, Michael. 'Theatre Review: The Pendululm', The Guardian. 9 June 2008
  51. ^ Wise, Louis. 'Theatre Review: The Pendulum, Jermyn Street, SW1'. Sunday Times 15 June 2008

External links[edit]