A gripping narrative history of Spain’s most brilliant and troubled literary family—a tale about the making of art, myth, and legacy—set against the upheaval of the Spanish Civil War and beyond
In this absorbing and atmospheric historical narrative, journalist Aaron Shulman takes us deeply into the circumstances surrounding the Spanish Civil War through the lives, loves, and poetry of the Paneros, Spain’s most compelling and eccentric family, whose lives intersected memorably with many of the most storied figures in the art, literature, and politics of the time—from Neruda to Salvador Dalí, from Ava Gardner to Pablo Picasso to Roberto Bolaño.
Weaving memoir with cultural history and biography, and brought together with vivid storytelling and striking images, The Age of Disenchantments sheds new light on the romance and intellectual ferment of the era while revealing the profound and enduring devastation of the war, the Franco dictatorship, and the country’s transition to democracy.
A searing tale of love and hatred, art and ambition, and freedom and oppression, The Age of Disenchantments is a chronicle of a family who modeled their lives (and deaths) on the works of art that most inspired and obsessed them and who, in turn, profoundly affected the culture and society around them.
In this sweeping, ambitious debut, journalist Shulman offers a group biography of a family indelibly marked by the Spanish Civil War. He begins with the family's patriarch, Leopoldo Panero, a noted poet who abandoned the left-wing Republicans to defect to the right-wing Nationalists during the war, eventually rising high in General Franco's regime to assume the role of unofficial poet laureate. Shulman also profiles in depth Leopoldo's wife, Felicidad, who endured their troubled marriage despite proclaiming that "family is sacred!" Leopoldo had many affairs through an intense, albeit platonic, relationship with another poet. Of their three sons, the oldest, Juan Luis, sought, with limited success, to assume his father's role after Leopoldo died in 1962; the middle son, Leopoldo Maria, was arrested after urging people not to vote in a pro-Franco referendum in 1967 and later attempted suicide; while the youngest, Michi, descended into alcoholism. In 1976, the year after Franco's death, a documentary, The Disenchantment, depicted the surviving Paneros grappling with Leopoldo's legacy; a viewing of the film inspired Shulman to write this book. Prodigiously researched and beautifully written, Shulman's work reveals a remarkable family of "refreshing weirdness, poetic obsessions, and sacrilegious taste for destruction" as a microcosm of Spain's tortured 20th century.Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated that Michi Panero suffered from mental illness.