Alex Y Robert

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0120100906

Written by Wena Poon.

In contemporary Spain bullfighting is in decline, squeezed by recession and overshadowed by the threat of being banned.

It's a bad time for anyone to want to be a matador, let alone a girl, and an American girl at that.

Unfortunately, Alejandra 'Alex' Herrera has wanted to do little else since she was a child.

She seeks the help of Roberto de la Torre, a young and famous matador.

Among the things they have in common: their grandfathers were friends and matadors who both perished in the bullring in 1959.

Alex flies from Austin to Valencia.

The University of Texas believes she's attending a Spanish study programme but Alex has other plans, and sets off for San MartÃn: hometown of her matador grandfather.

Some bullfighting terms:

torero - bullfighter

faena - the third and final act of a bullfight, in which the red cape and the sword are used

banderilleros - the men who place colorful darts on the bull, in the second act of the bullfight

Wena Poon is the author of Alex y Robert and three other books of literary fiction: Lions In Winter, The Proper Care of Foxes, and The Biophilia Omnibus.

Winner of the 2010 Willesden Herald Prize in England, she has been twice nominated for the Frank O'Connor Award in Ireland.

Her books have also been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, the Readers' Choice Awards in Malaysia, and voted Best Book Gift of the Year by CNN Singapore.

A freelance journalist and a corporate lawyer, Poon is a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School.

Abridged by Jeremy Osborne

Read by Lorelei King

Producer: Karen Rose

A Sweet Talk Production for BBC Radio 4.

In her quest to become a matador Alex flies from Texas to Valencia.

0220100907

Written by Wena Poon.

Alex has contacted Roberto.

After his latest bullfight in Valencia they drive somewhere they can talk away from his entourage and the paparazzi.

Some bullfighting terms:

corrida de toros - "running of the bulls", or bullfight veronica - a pass made by a torero during the first act of a bullfight, using the pink and yellow cape held before his chest with both hands.

Named after Saint Veronica, who is often depicted in classical paintings holding her veil in the same way.

recibiendo - a high-risk method of killing the bull.

The bullfighter urges the bull to charge at him and his raised sword, such that he "receives" it, as opposed to running at a stationary bull.

Abridged by Jeremy Osborne

Read by Lorelei King

Producer: Karen Rose

A Sweet Talk production for BBC Radio 4.

Alex goes for a talk with young matador Roberto de la Torre.

0320100908

Written by Wena Poon.

Alex has returned to Texas to continue her studies while Roberto is bullfighting in the South America.

To shrink the miles between them Alex has introduced him to text messaging.

But all is not well with Roberto's career.

Some bullfighting terms:

peÃa - a bullfighting fan club novillero - a bullfighter not yet graduated to professional matador status.

He fights younger, smaller bulls.

plaza - short for plaza de toros,

the bullring ole - an audience cry of appreciation during a bullfight, said to have come from the Muslim word for God, Allah.

Las Fallas - an annual fireworks and effigy-burning festival in the city of Valencia, held in honour of Saint Joseph.

Abridged by Jeremy Osborne

Read by Lorelei King

Producer: Karen Rose

A Sweet Talk production for BBC Radio 4.

Loreli King reads from the novel by Wena Poon.

0420100909

Written by Wena Poon.

It is the annual bullfight for Las Fallas in Valencia.

Roberto has just spotted Alex amongst the press photographers.

But he must put that out of his mind.

He's alone in the ring with a thousand pounds of angry bull and to impress needs to be better than perfection.

Abridged by Jeremy Osborne

Read by Lorelei King

Producer: Karen Rose

A Sweet Talk production for BBC Radio 4.

At the annual bullfight for Las Fallas in Valencia.

Roberto spots Alex amongst the crowd.

0520100910

Written by Wena Poon.

Three months after being gored at Las Fallas, Roberto has retired from the bullring and has moved to San Francisco to study art.

But Alex won't let him put bullfighting behind him.

Some bullfighting terms:

alternativa - the graduation ceremony of a bullfighter to professional matador status, usually held in the Las Ventas bullring in Madrid.

traje des luces - "suit of lights", the bullfighter's sparkling costume.

Abridged by Jeremy Osborne

Read by Lorelei King

Producer: Karen Rose

A Sweet Talk production for BBC Radio 4.

Roberto has retired from the bullring, but Alex won't let him forget his past.

0620100913

Written by Wena Poon.

Alex has persuaded Roberto, now retired, to return from California to Spain to help her become a torero.

Visiting the Bullfighting Museum in their home town of San Martin, they are standing with Hector - the curator and aficionado - in front of some very familiar exhibits.

Some bullfighting terms:

goyesca - a unique style of bullfighter's suit originally designed by the painter Goya, used only during bullfights in the Spanish city of Ronda, or elsewhere on special occasions

muleta - the red cape used by the bullfighter in the final act of a bullfight.

cuadrilla - the team of men assisting the matador in the bullfight, comprising 3 banderilleros and 2 picadores.

Sometimes the sword boy and assistant are also included in this definition, bringing the official count to seven.

Abridged by Jeremy Osborne

Read by Lorelei King

Producer: Karen Rose

A Sweet Talk production for BBC Radio 4.

Alex has persuaded Roberto to return to Spain to help her become a torero.

0720100914

Written by Wena Poon.

Francisco, the manager of the San Martin bullring has agreed to stage a charity bullfight with a space on the bill for Alex.

But first she must be properly trained.

Feeling that his work is done, Roberto is preparing to return to San Francisco.

Some bullfighting terms:

capea - an informal "bullfight" involving any kind of bull or cow, held during parties or festivals, in which people take turns caping the animals.

Abridged by Jeremy Osborne

Read by Lorelei King

Producer: Karen Rose

A Sweet Talk production for BBC Radio 4.

Alex gets her chance on the bill of a charity bullfight.

0820100915

Written by Wena Poon.

Roberto has returned to Spain following Alex's injury in training and is staying to manage her for the fight in San Martin.

Fuentes, a local bull-breeder and patron of the French novillera Magalie Soubeyran, has put his ranch at their disposal to resume Alex's training - when she is fit again.

Some bullfighting terms:

novillada - a bullfight featuring bullfighters who have not yet graduated to professional matador status, and younger, smaller bulls.

Often the bullfighters, known as novilleros, are teenagers.

sangre de toros - bulls' blood

Abridged by Jeremy Osborne

Read by Lorelei King.

Roberto has returned to Spain following Alex's injury in training.

0920100916

Written by Wena Poon.

Preparations continue for the charity corrida in San Martin.

Antonio, Roberto's former manager, has driven to the ranch to check on Alex's progress.

Roberto still needs to find another novillero to complete the bill.

Abridged by Jeremy Osborne

Read by Lorelei King

Producer: Karen Rose

A Sweet Talk production for BBC Radio 4.

10 LAST20100917

Written by Wena Poon.

The day of the charity bullfight in San Martin has arrived.

On the bill: Joselito Rodriguez; Magalie Soubeyran and Alejandra 'Alex' Herrera.

But there is one last obstacle to overcome before Alex can live her dream.

Bullfighting term:

picador - the man on a padded horse who appears in the ring during the first act of a bullfight.

Abridged by Jeremy Osborne

Read by Lorelei King

Producer: Karen Rose

A Sweet Talk Production for BBC Radio 4.