Skip to main content

Arenas, Reinaldo (1943–1990)

Arenas, Reinaldo (1943–1990)

Reinaldo Arenas (b. 16 July 1943; d. 7 December 1990), Cuban novelist, short story writer, poet, and essayist. Arenas was born in Perronales, a rural area in Oriente Province. His early experiences living in the country in a house full of what he terms "semisingle" women (as depicted in his novels Singing in the Well [1982] and The Palace of the Very White Skunks [1991]) shaped much of his work and character, as did the friendship and guidance of writers Virgilio Piñera and José Lezama Lima when he was a young man. Although Arenas received little formal schooling as a child, his mother taught him to read and write, and he began writing while very young. In 1959 he joined Fidel Castro's rebel forces, and after the fall of the government of Fulgencio Batista he studied agrarian management in the Oriente town of Holguín and in Havana. His increasing disenchantment and unwillingness to compromise with the new Cuban regime, along with the unabashed homosexuality evident in both his life and his work, caused him to run afoul of the Castro government. Although both his novels Singing in the Well (1982) and Hallucinations (1971) received some attention in Cuba, he was persecuted, imprisoned, and censored there, even as his work was being published and acclaimed abroad. In 1969 Hallucinations, which had been smuggled out of Cuba, was honored in France as one of the best foreign novels. In 1980 he joined the Mariel Boatlift and left for the United States, where he settled in New York City until taking his own life in the final stages of AIDS.

Arenas's work takes the lyrical, ornate, baroque style of Cuban literary tradition and applies it to the themes of rebellion, repression, and the dehumanization that the subjugation of human beings brings upon both victims and perpetrators. Using the specific situations that he lived and knew intimately, he explores the universality of slavery and oppression. Particularly successful examples are his long poem Leprosorio (1990) and his novels Arturo, la estrella más brillante (1984) and El asalto (1991). Shortly before his death he finished his autobiography, Antes que anochezca (1992; translated as Before Night Falls, 1993). His work has been translated into many languages.

See alsoHomosexuality and Bisexuality in Literature .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Perla Rozencraig, Reinaldo Arenas: Narrativa de transgresión (1986).

Roberto Valero, El desamparado humor de Reinaldo Arenas (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Machover, Jacobo. La memoria frente al poder: Escritores cubanos del exilio: Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Severo Sarduy, Reinaldo Arenas. Valencia: Universidad de Valencia, 2001.

Soto, Francisco. Reinaldo Arenas. London: Prentice Hall, 1998.

                                        Roberto Valero

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Arenas, Reinaldo (1943–1990)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Jun. 2019 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Arenas, Reinaldo (1943–1990)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 17, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/arenas-reinaldo-1943-1990

"Arenas, Reinaldo (1943–1990)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Retrieved June 17, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/arenas-reinaldo-1943-1990

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.