Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas
A Memoir

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Synopsis

Reinaldo Arenas' account of his life as a writer and a homosexual. Acknowledged as one of the great 20th-century Cuban writers, he was born in 1943 into a poor, rural Cuban family. At the age of 15 he joined Castro's guerrillas against Batista's right-wing regime, only to discover that repression under Castro would be on a monumental scale. He spent 20 years of his life trying to survive his "re-education", to safeguard his manuscripts and to maintain his sanity when he was imprisoned in El Morro prison in Havana. But, despite everything that had happened to him, including betrayal by his aunt and some of his closest "friends", Arenas triumphed, finally leaving Cuba during the Mariel exodus in 1980. But America could never replace his beloved Cuba, and his anti-Castro stance made him unsympathetic to many American intellectuals. "Before Night Falls" was begun before Arenas left Cuba and was completed in the last stage of his battle with AIDS, which dominated the last years of his life until he committed suicide on 7 December 1990 at the age of 47. It is a compelling and moving account of the hell Arenas experienced in Cuba and the purgatory he endured in the United States. It is a book both raw and fierce, tender and lyrical. It reveals a man of enormous vitality, resilience and courage.
 

About Reinaldo Arenas

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The novel The Ill-fated Peregrinations of Fray Servando recreates in a poetic style, in which time, space, and character move on multiple planes of fantasy and reality, the life of Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, a Mexican priest famous for his hatred of the Spaniards. Mier denied even that the Spaniards had brought Christianity to the New World. Arenas begins with a letter to the friar: "Ever since I discovered you in an execrable history of Spanish literature, described as the friar who had traveled over the whole of Europe on foot having improbable adventures; I have tried to find out more about you." In a meditation on the nature of fiction, Arenas discovers that he and Servando are the same person, and author and character become one.
 
Published October 1, 1994 by Penguin Books. 336 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Gay & Lesbian, Literature & Fiction, History, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Exile proved little better: New York was "soulless,'' and for "Cubans who have suffered persecution for twenty years in that terrible world, there is really no solace anywhere.'' Unable to "write and to struggle for the freedom of Cuba,'' Arenas said in a letter intended for posthumous publicatio...

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The Guardian

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Before Night Falls Production year: 2001 Country: USA Cert (UK): 15 Runtime: 125 mins Directors: Julian Schnabel Cast: Andrea Di Stefano, Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp, Olivier Martinez, Sean Penn ...

Jun 15 2001 | Read Full Review of Before Night Falls: A Memoir

Publishers Weekly

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With the success of Julian Schnabel's art-house movie Before Night Falls, based on the autobiography of Arenas and starring Spanish actor Javier Bardem, Arenas has begun to solidify his place in the Latin American canon.

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Publishers Weekly

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In this powerful memoir of passions both personal and political, Cuban author Arenas ( Hallucinations ) describes his voyage from peasant poverty to his oppression as a dissident writer and homosexual.

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BC Books

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Imagine a country where homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment in a concentration camp.

Apr 21 2008 | Read Full Review of Before Night Falls: A Memoir

AV Club

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Birth-to-death biopics about great artists and writers rarely work, for several reasons.

Mar 29 2002 | Read Full Review of Before Night Falls: A Memoir

Entertainment Weekly

The second movie by art world big boy Julian Schnabel, Before Night Falls, is a biopic as formlessly dreamy as life itself and as fragmented as the cracked plates pasted on Schnabel's most famous paintings.

Aug 15 2001 | Read Full Review of Before Night Falls: A Memoir

Entertainment Weekly

There are stray moments when Before Night Falls rambles (that's the underside of its narrative bravura), yet Bardem's final scene may be the most wrenching of the year, as the AIDS-stricken Arenas, a man who has fought for the freedom to be, now gives up the freedom to live.

Jan 12 2001 | Read Full Review of Before Night Falls: A Memoir

Chamber Four

When a friend of mine gave me an English translation of the autobiography of Reinaldo Arenas, Before Nights Falls, he insisted that the book was an effortless and riveting read–which was precisely the case.

Sep 15 2010 | Read Full Review of Before Night Falls: A Memoir

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