By Arenas, Reinaldo; Arenas, Reinaldo; Olivares, Jorge
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Additional resources for Becoming Reinaldo Arenas : family, sexuality, and the Cuban Revolution
I honestly believe that the concentration camps for homosexuals, and the police o≈cers disguised as willing young men to entrap and arrest homosexuals, actually resulted in the promotion of homosexual activities. (Antes que anochezca 132–33; Before Night Falls 107) A dissident writer who was also publicly and deﬁantly gay, Arenas was targeted by those in power for not adhering to Cuba’s prescribed literary, moral, political, and social norms. He continued to write incessantly, however, having to rewrite some of his manuscripts several times after they mysteriously found their way into the hands of the secret police.
Beginning the textual reconstruction of his exile with a description of the transformation of his appearance, Arenas describes in this passage of his memoirs more than a routine bodily act by someone who was rescued after having been lost at sea for days. Arenas also sets in motion an erotics of exile: like a hopeful lover primping for a date, the newcomer showers, shaves, and dresses in anticipation of a crucial encounter. Anxious to forge a new life in the United States, Arenas tries to make himself attractive to whatever or whoever comes before him.
To attribute all his misfortunes, however, to a political conspiracy against him, as Arenas tended to do, is simplistic. Arenas’s anti-Castro stance and his obstinacy on matters Cuban indeed accounted for many of his adversities in exile, but undoubtedly so did his caustic temperament. Arenas’s close friends, who readily referred to his generosity, kindness, and humility, acknowledged that Arenas could be explosive, paranoid, and belligerent. ≥≤ ‘‘It wasn’t easy being his friend,’’ declared Roberto Valero (‘‘La tétrica mofeta en su palacio blanquísimo’’ 48), who understood Arenas’s complex character, which had been shaped by a life of injustice and persecution that few have experienced and which, Arenas was convinced, few could understand.