Friday, March 29, 2019

Aaron Shulman

Aaron Shulman's new book is The Age of Disenchantments: The Epic Story of Spain's Most Notorious Literary Family and the Long Shadow of the Spanish Civil War.

From his interview with Caren Beilin at Full Stop:

I have been wanting to ask you about research because the bibliography at the back of this book is like its own novella! You travelled, you visited a lot of cool archives, and met with amazing people—but the Paneros are gone. I’m working on a project now that involves a lot of solicitation of people way outside of my ken and this process has a lot of highs and lows. I want to make contact with all kinds of people, but not everybody’s just, there. People are in their lives, it feels like a miracle when the energy matches and someone feels impelled enough to be generous, to be storytelling to you and kind and, you know, respond to emails. When that happens, everything feels possible again. Sergio Pitol begins the book I mentioned earlier—you’d love him, do you know this great Mexican writer?—with an epigraph from E. M. Forster: “Only connect…”

Can you say who you connected with that simply blew your mind, who you got to talk to for this book?

Writing an interview-intense book makes for a challenging, but really special experience. Most people were astoundingly open when I reached out to them, usually by email. My wife Elisa thought this had something to do with me being American—people’s curiosity about my curiosity, or maybe some weird cachet an American writer might have (even though Spaniards love shitting on the US) that earned me an opening of some sort. There’s also a long tradition of Anglophone writers and historians coming to Spain and producing respected books, and this may have helped me more than I realized. One person actually told me he had decided to speak to me because of how much he respected Ian Gibson, Lorca’s biographer. Also, a lot of people cared about the Paneros, or cared about giving their perspective on the Paneros, and that was why they were willing to speak to me. All in all, I had very good luck “only connecting,” in part because people I had good rapport with people who connected me to other people, or people I sought out for their expertise or wrote chasing a chancy lead were just really generous.

For example, a local historian from a town in northern Spain named Ernesto Burgos helped me track down the daughter of a woman who had a brief romance with Leopoldo Panero when he was a soldier stationed in her town during the Spanish Civil War. She had memories of her mother’s memories. That was really exciting, a kind of miracle, like you say, but like you also point out, people are...[read on]
Visit Aaron Shulman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue