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Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas
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Before Night Falls (1992)

by Reinaldo Arenas

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  bostonbibliophile | Jan 1, 2013 |
Book about the life of Reinaldo Arenas. From a fighter for the Revolution, through his suppression as a writer, his disillusionment with Castro, his imprisonment and torture, to his flight from Cuba to New York.
  LASC | Oct 11, 2012 |
More than two decades ago I read a devastating memoir, 'Against all Hope' by Armando Valladares, that depicted the brutality of Castro's Cuba from the view of a prison cell. Now I have encountered a comparable memoir in 'Before Night Falls'. His memoir, just as shocking as that by Valladares, is above all a book about being free -- as an artist, a citizen, and a human. Recounting his journey from a poverty-stricken childhood in rural Cuba (undoubtedly a more severe life than poverty in America due to the lack of infrastructure in Cuba) Arenas narrates his life over four decades until his death in New York. His farewell letter at the end of the memoir is as touching as anything I have ever read. He lead a life filled with action for the defense of individual freedom of humanity in his home of Cuba; but he also lived a life that was Kafkaesque with episodes of imprisonment and suppresion of his writing by Castro's Cuba. It is a story that reminds me more of the Inferno of Dante (which I recently read) than life on earth, even recognizing that we do not live in a paradise. Arenas' memoir is a great work of art, but also a tribute to the spirit of man. ( )
2 vote jwhenderson | Aug 21, 2010 |
I only managed to read a few pages of this book. The problem for me here was that it seemed to gallop at speed but without much detail or thoughtfulness through the events of his life - this happened, then that happened. I find this approach frustrating because it doesn't give your brain very much to grasp on - nothing is given any more significance than anything else.

I also read the other reviews here, and nothing in them convinced me to read any further. ( )
  wandering_star | Jul 23, 2010 |
I had no prior knowledge of Cuba when I started this book. Having finished it, I'm not really sure what the quality of my education on the subject has been.Arenas paints a rather bleak picture of his native land. He describes life under Batista as unbearable and then under Castro as even more horrific. He talks of prisons, concentration camps, and slave labor. If what he says is true, he thoroughly exposes the inhumanity of the Cuban government.I was surprised that nothing on the book- not the blurbs or the plot summary- mentions Arenas's homosexuality, as it plays more than a small role in his memoir. His sexuality was very interesting. He claims to have had sex with virtually every man on the island. From writers to police officers to prisoners- it seems everyone wanted a little. I will certainly never be comfortable walking into a Cuban public restroom.I don't know how reliable Arenas is. Based upon his testimony, it seems that it would be hard to walk ten feet down a sidewalk in Cuba and not see sodomy in action. I find that hard to believe. It's possible, I suppose, but if homosexuality is illegal in the country, it seems to me that people would try to be a bit more discreet about it. He also describes nearly every man he comes across as homosexual, whether they display any of the characteristics or not. I think the guy might be channeling Freud, as he seems to attribute all weaknesses of character to latent homosexual longings.Since I have issues with his claims on that front, it calls into question everything else he talks about. He's a name dropper, that's for sure. However, none of the names mean anything at all to me. He spent some significant time in prison and, though I don't doubt for a second that the experience was profoundly unpleasant, I don't know if I believe the parts about the bloodthirsty queens cross-dressing and shanking one another.I need to know more about Cuba. Whether Arenas is embellishing or not, he has piqued my interest. I want to know more about Batista, Castro, and the literature out of Cuba. I also want to read at least one of Arenas's novels. ( )
2 vote anoceandrowning | Jan 21, 2010 |
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The Cuban-born novelist describes his poverty-stricken childhood in rural Cuba, his adolescence as a rebel fighting for Castro, his suppression as a writer, his imprisonment for his homosexuality, and his flight from Cuba.

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