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Literature / Before Night Falls

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Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas's 1992 autobiography was published after the author's death.

The book details the life and changing fortunes of the author, who, despite his early sympathy for Castro's revolution, soon found himself persecuted by the new regime, both as a writer who refused to toe the line ideologically and as a homosexual. He was eventually imprisoned by the Cuban government.

Despite the harsh conditions, Arenas managed to survive, escaping to The United States in 1980.

Arenas was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987. Shortly after completing Before Night Falls, he committed suicide, explaining in his last letter that his illness had become unbearable.

Arenas's book was filmed in 2000, directed by Julian Schnabel, and starring Javier Bardem as Arenas.

This work contains examples of:

  • 2 + Torture = 5: Poor, poor, Herberto Padilla.
  • All Gays are Promiscuous: Deconstructed. The secretive and dangerous lives that gays are forced to live in Castro's regime make forming lasting monogamous relationships all but impossible, and so they must instead make do with any fleeting snatches of intimacy they can find. At one point, Arenas himself claims to have slept with 5,000 men, but he regards this as part of the "tragedy of the homosexual" rather than as any sort of achievement.
  • Arcadia: Averted. The chapter dedicated to describing Reinaldo's boyhood in the countryside utterly eviscerates the notion that rural life is a harmonious bed of roses, and it depicts with brutal honesty the killing of livestock and pets and the dangers of wild animals.
  • The Beard: Ingrávida Félix agrees to be this for Reinaldo in an attempt to protect him from arrest. It doesn't work.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Elia del Calvo amasses a collection of around fifty cats and is such a zealous communist she even suspects Fidel Castro of being insufficiently revolutionary.
  • Disappeared Dad: Reinaldo's father abandoned his mother shortly after he was born.
  • Driven to Suicide: Olga Andreu, Pepe El Loco, Calvert Cassey, and many others. Reinaldo himself attempts suicide three times during the course of the book.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Between Virgilio and Reinaldo, who have more than thirty years between them.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Reinaldo is a poet, novelist, and playwright.
  • Ocean Awe: And not just because of the inherent beauty of The Caribbean but also because of the fantasy of escaping across it to freedom.
  • Persecuted Intellectuals: Reinaldo himself and most of his friends - fellow poets, novelists, and artists.
  • Prison Rape: Occurs frequently at El Morro, the first prison Reinaldo inhabits.
  • Race Fetish: Virgilio assures the young Reinaldo that he has no sexual interest in him, as he prefers blacks.