For Aaron Shulman, the author of The Age of Disenchantments: The Epic Story of Spain’s Most Notorious Literary Family and the Long Shadow of the Spanish Civil War, inspiration arrived in the form of a provocative documentary film. Shulman was living in Spain when he first saw El Desencanto, a controversial exposé made by Jaime Chávarri that features the surviving members of the family of Leopoldo Panero, the premier poet extolling the virtues of Spain’s dictator, Generalíssimo Francisco Franco. Released in 1976, just one year after Franco’s fall and 14 years after Panero’s death, the film shows his widow, Felicidad Blanc, and his three sons, Leopoldo María, Juan Luis, and Michi Panero, reflecting on the downfall of the deeply corrupt and decadent world in which they had lived since the Spanish Civil War. The film caused a sensation in Spain, where it quickly became the emblematic story of what fascism can do to destroy the lives of cultivated and apparently privileged individuals.
Caught up by the intensity of the Panero family’s struggle to escape the web of their own mythology, Shulman dedicated several years to learning everything he could about the family and their intricate historical context. The result is a fascinating and groundbreaking account of the complex social conditions that were obtained not only under Franco, but also in the brutal early years of the Civil War in Spain.
On Sunday, May 19, 2-4 p.m., Aaron Shulman will be screening El Desencanto and discussing both the film and his book about the Panero family at the Faulkner Gallery of the Santa Barbara Central Library. Admission is free, and the book will be available for purchase and signing. This is a great chance to meet and interact with one of Santa Barbara’s most distinguished young writers and to learn more about the fascinating milieu of Spain under Franco.