Shulman, Aaron. “The Age of Disenchantments: The Epic Story of Spain’s Most Notorious Literary Family and the Long Shadow of the Spanish Civil War”, Ecco, 2019.
Art, Myth, and Legacy
Journalist Aaron Shulman takes us 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 came together with many of the most storied figures in the art, literature, and politics of the time. To name a few, there were Neruda, Salvador Dalí, T.S. Eliot, Gerald Brennan, Lorca, Franco, Ava Gardner, Pablo Picasso and Roberto Bolaño.
Combining memoir with cultural history and biography as well as storytelling and striking images, “The Age of Disenchantments” shows us the romance and intellectual ferment of the era while at the same time bringing out the profound and enduring devastation of the war, the Franco dictatorship, and the country’s move to democracy.
This is a story of love and hatred, art and ambition, and freedom and oppression as seen through the 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.
Their friends included Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Miguel Hernandez, Javier Marais, Felix Guattari and aside from T.S. Eliot, three other Nobel laureates.
The father was Leopoldo Panero, Communist before the Civil War who became a famous and celebrated poet during Franco’s rule. Felicidad Blanc, the mother was known for her beauty and determined to live life like in a novel. The three sons included Juan Luis Panero, a loner and a pot who was obsessed with his own poetic heritage and enjoyed imitating his literary heroes, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Malcolm Lowry, and Lawrence Durell. Leopoldo Maria Panero was a doomed genius and visionary poet who spent most of his life in mental institutions yet he appears in three Robert Bolano novels. Michi Panero was a legendary playboy, a frustrated writer and “scenester par excellence” in the countercultural explosion in Madrid in the 1970s and 80s. Without a doubt this was Spain’s most compelling and eccentric literary experience and this is so much more than just a read. As we learn about the family, we also learn about the romance and the intellectual ferment of the pre-war era as well as the devastation of the Franco era and the devastation of war.