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Before Night Falls

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  3,207 Ratings  ·  271 Reviews
Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas describes his poverty-stricken childhood in rural, his adolescence as a rebel fighting for Fidel Castro, and his life in revolutionary Cuba as a homosexual. Very quickly the Castro government suppressed his writing and persecuted him for his homosexuality until he was finally imprisoned.
Hardcover, 317 pages
Published June 15th 2001 by Serpents Tail (first published 1992)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Oct 09, 2016 Fabian rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Aspiring writers who don't understand how good they have it
Shelves: favorites
Perhaps the single BEST MEMOIR I have read-- this work of art is excruciating. There's no doubt that everything that occurred to Arenas happened and that here is testament of how the new wave of Cuban writers, lingering between Batista (incited by him and his regime) and entering into the holocaust that is Communist Cuba by Castro, struggled and died. This voice was not extinguished, however.

Arena's life is full of missteps, amazing accomplishments and plenty of sex. He's proud of himself, never
K.D. Absolutely
Surprisingly very good. It's main message is freedom. Freedom from repressive Cuban regime of Fulgencio Batista and the more detestable one of Fidel Castro. Freedom from the sexual discrimination against gays in the Communist Cuba and this explains the picture that Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990): that homosexuality in Cuba was rampant. The book is full of explicit sex scenes not only of homosexuality but bestiality. I suspect that that was intentional in a way that Marquis de Sade (1740-1819) portr ...more
Jubilation Lee
Before Night Falls is simultaneously heartbreaking and celebratory, and Reinaldo Arenas is brilliant and furious and quite clearly burning the candle at both ends. His prose reads like poetry half the time, and you find yourself completely sucked into his story--his peasant youth, his sexual awakening, his imprisonment, writing, exile, sickness, suicide.... Arenas writes as though he's on his deathbed (which he was) and as though he wants to remind the world of every bit of torture and suffering ...more
Ben Winch
I don't know if this is 'literature' - and I certainly didn't read it as if it was (skipping around and skimming sections as I do with rock biographies) - but it feels true to me. And Reinaldo Arenas writes about literature as one who loves it above all - certainly above politics. Not for him any alignment with 'Left' or 'Right', and I agree completely, when the so-called Left can behave as the leaders of Cuba did during the period that Arenas writes about here. Not only that, but when supporter ...more

Ma dopo vent'anni di repressione, come avrei potuto stare zitto davanti a quei crimini? E inoltre non mi sono mai considerato né di sinistra né di destra, né voglio essere catalogato sotto qualunque etichetta di opportunismo politico. Io racconto la mia verità, come un ebreo che abbia sofferto il razzismo o un russo che sia stato in un gulag, come qualunque essere umano che abbia avuto gli occhi per vedere le cose come sono.

Libro che mi instilla vari dubbi.
Dal punto di vista storico-politico è
Apr 09, 2015 Dimitris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shocking book, perfectly written! It kept me up nights. I don't know what to think, whose side to take as the author, refugee from Cuba to NY, terminally ill with AIDS, narrates his life right before chosing to end it, and this life is basically Gay suppresion vs. Castro's Cuba. I have an unconditional love for both gay fighters and for Castro, whom R. Arenas considers the Devil himself and the cause of all his troubles.
Nevertheless, the book gave me enormous pleasure and subjects to think upon
Feb 14, 2008 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cubans,Gays,Poets,Reinaldo Arenas'mother,those with a bawdy sense of humor/communism
Recommended to Jason by: netflix
"...he lived a life whose beginning and end were indeed the same: from the start, one long, sustained sexual act..." says Guillermo Cabrera about Arenas' life. And man oh man, he wasn't kidding. There is so much sex in this book! It makes me think that everyone in Cuba is a sexhound waiting to pounce on each other, only restrained by social mores and/or the repressive government and its forced status quo. there is so much sex, it's funny. In his childhood he's having sex with all these animals a ...more
Lissette Rosa
Jul 09, 2014 Lissette Rosa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Es la primera vez que tengo la oportunidad de leer un libro autobiográfico y debo decir que fue sumamente impactante. Las condiciones desdichadas a las que Arenas se ve expuesto son meramente reflejos de las ataduras de una sociedad reprimida. Obligado a renegar sus ideologías y preferencias sexuales, éste encuentra refugio en la escritura. Plasma su postura anticastrista y las penurias por las que, no solo él, sino un sin número de cubanos, se ven afectados. Marcando así un hito en la literatur ...more
"Il coraggio è una follia piena di grandezza."

Quando Reinaldo Arenas iniziò a scrivere la sua autobiografia era ancora giovane, era ancora a Cuba, la più florida e per questo potente, pericolosa manifestazione della vita e della vitalità, così nemica ai regimi. Scriveva nei boschi, di nascosto, con il sole unico complice; ogni giorno si affrettava a terminare, prima che arrivasse la notte.
Quando Reinaldo Arenas terminò la sua autobiografia era non di molto più vecchio, malato di AIDS, in esilio.
Sean A.
Feb 23, 2012 Sean A. rated it it was amazing
Absolutely stunningly brilliant, candid memoir. Arenas does an immaculate job, as he would describe it, of screaming against the systems of control (in this case, the so-called communism but really dystopian dictatorship of castro's cuba) which doggedly plagued the author throughout his life. his scream is one of joy, and that joy often abounds from two distinct but sometimes overlapping subjects; sexuality (more explicitly, a hungry homoerotic sexuality) and the sea. these aspects provide the b ...more
Robert Beveridge
Jan 30, 2008 Robert Beveridge rated it it was amazing
Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls (Penguin, 1993)

Arenas' memoir of life in Cuba has recently been made into one of the finest films extant by Julian Schnabel. Schnabel did an excellent job with the book; while his interpretation of the text was loose in places, he managed to capture in images the style of Arenas' writing.

In other words, if you saw the movie before reading the book, you're going to be somewhat surprised. Some of Schnabel's more memorable scenes are mentioned in passing (if at a
Oct 22, 2016 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: want, 700, 900-memoir
If you are looking for a nice, inspiring biography that delicately glosses over the actual suffering part of the writer's experience, this book is not for you. If descriptions of sexual encounters (enough to be questionable) bother you, this book is also not for you.

This was not easy to read by any means. While well written and compelling, the blunt descriptions of the things he saw and experienced are vivid and have genuine emotional impact. I feel admiration for him for having survived and gri
Feb 15, 2013 Sve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Изключителна книга.
Изпълнена с копнеж по свободата и борба за живот, непримиримост с диктатурата и нейните деца - жестокостта и озлобението.
На моменти начина, по който Аренас се спасява изглежда твърде невероятен, трудно е да повярва човек че всичко това се е случило. И че той е оцелял - въпреки системните опити да бъде погубен, а творчеството му заличено.
Въпреки огромного разочарование на емигрантския живот, което го настига накрая, не мога да не се възхитя на невероятната сила и смелост на то
Sep 29, 2016 Joni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un libro muy duro, autobiográfico en los últimos días del escritor, consciente ya de la muerte que le acontece a cuentagotas, enfermo, resentido del dolor de los años preso dentro y fuera de una cárcel, perseguido, desolado, desconfiando y traicionado por amigos y familiares. Tiene muchos momentos desgarradores. Por muchos considerado anti propaganda castrista, pero bueno,, hay que escuchar las dos campanas en lo posible, no?
To check out my review:

True Rating: 3.5

I FINALLY finished reading this book after months of laziness and I am proud of myself that I actually read this entire book. I desperately want to give this book the full 5 stars because Reinaldo Arenas's writing is impeccable but unfortunately this book is not meant for public consumption. Ever since news has broken out about the United States negotiations with Cuba, I started getting curious over Cuba's history ev
Well I had to fight through that one at times.

I understand and feel for the author with the Cuban repression of his art, and the squalor that he had to live in. I think he was a wonderful writer, and his novels are probably brilliant. His views of the American far Left made me smile, as how can anyone have a better view of Cuba and the hatred and unjustified oppression that communism in that country produces.


I can not believe for one second many of the tales of his "erotic encounters." Cub
Jennifer Mccombs
Mar 22, 2009 Jennifer Mccombs rated it it was amazing
The truth that stems from this book is beautiful. Quite possibly my favorite writer at the moment. Each description is original in thought and placed on paper with no insecurities resting behind his hand. Beautiful, original, honest...a human being that was able to turn his own tragedy and life's struggle into a poetic memoir that should greet the eyes of anyone that considers themselves a true fan of great literature. This book will scare the shit out of you and make you think about Cuba and it ...more
Aug 23, 2013 Adam rated it liked it
I was pretty sure I'd like this one... but at around page 200, it turns into chaos. The last few pages it seems like he becomes an astrologist or looking for meaning in everything.
Oh well
Tony Hightower
Sometimes a life is so harrowing, so dramatic from moment to moment, that you can scarcely believe someone managed to live through it. Reinaldo Arenas has certainly lived that kind of life: as a homosexual and dissident living under Batista and then Castro, he was uninterested in playing ball with either regime, and suffered torture and indignity beyond human reason in the name of his art, his country, and his cock.

If frank depictions of homosexual activity disturb you, don't bother with this bo
Jun 27, 2012 Eddie rated it really liked it
I want to visit Cuba more than ever after reading Reinaldo Arenas' bio. When you read this book, you will be given a raw and realistic insight into cuban society under Fidel Castro's regime and it will not look all that good, but something about it just makes cuban culture and cuban history very intriguing.

Arenas' story is a rough patch. All along, from birth to death. Yet he seemed to juggle his hardships in a very brave and undefeated way, it's as if he was used to live in misery and accept it
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 d ...more
Nicole Anderson
Sep 25, 2016 Nicole Anderson rated it it was ok
2.5 stars
WTF did I just read??? I find half of the book unbelievable. I have a hard time believing all the sexual encounters and I'm not sure why they all had to be included in this book. Would have been better if it focused more on political aspects and his writing than his sexual escapades.
Moses Kilolo
Nov 03, 2012 Moses Kilolo rated it really liked it
"I have the comfort of having lived those last years, before the plague came, before the curse fell upon this city, as it always falls on all things extraordinary."

Such, the sort of stuff to be found in this memoir. Lets say I knew very little of Cuba before reading this. And at some point I thought that every man was f***ing every other man... Arena's book is without a doubt a fearless testament to his choice of life, to be what he sexually wanted to be, and to fight for the liberation of Cuba
Hossam Eldin
Apr 28, 2013 Hossam Eldin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Its amazing how reading this drama made me so thrilled and assured me that i am on the right path.
this Memoir of Reinaldo Arenas is all what i can wish from a book.
A lifetime of struggling and fights yet ends in suicide but reading his suicide note
"Due to my delicate state of health and to the terrible depression it causes me not to be able to continue writing and struggling for the freedom of Cuba, I am ending my life"
i became more assure that when people decide to take their own lives is not a
Nov 29, 2013 Constance rated it it was ok
I really wanted to enjoy this book. Maybe what spoiled it for me was seeing the movie before reading his book.

As in the movie, Arenas was a highly sexual being. That's his life, however I could have enjoyed this story more with less detail of his unseemly encounters. He was even repetitive with different people doing the exact same things. I wanted more Cuban history and less about a strangers large member.

I respect what he had to do to stay alive and his attitude while doing it. But boasting ab
Mawa Sando
Feb 14, 2014 Mawa Sando rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing account of intellectual life when persecuted by Fidel Castro's regime.
Arenas takes us through the shameful process of decadence of a human being fully connected with Nature and the freedom this implied.
His irrepressible sexual voracity is just a reflection of his vitality, a perpetual celebration of life, like the image of the sea he was fond of.
The autocratic regime manages to kill all this vitality. As in any other autocracy, when liberty is suppressed, life perishes (as ironically
Jun 30, 2015 Bradley rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
In this gripping memoir, Arenas recounts his early life in Cuba, life in prison under Fidel Castro's regime, and escape to the United States. Arenas experienced the social and cultural decline of his beloved Cuba during the fall of Fulgencio Batista and rise of Fidel Castro. For 15 years until his exile in 1980, Arenas, a prolific counterrevolutionary writer and active homosexual, suffered greatly as an enemy of the state. Despite his incarceration in the filth ridden prison of El Morro and cons ...more
Dec 22, 2014 Diana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Аз казвам своята истина, също като евреин, пострадал от расизма или руснак, преминал през ГУЛАГ, или което и да е друго човешко същество, способно да види нещата такива, каквито са; крещя, следователно съществувам."

Посмъртно издадената автобиография на Рейналдо Аренас, "Преди да падне нощта", е поредният бисер от Кубинската поредица на "Жанет 45", шокиращ и смущаващ вик за свобода.
Книгата е откровен поглед към един много болезнен период от историята на Острова, Кастро като позьор и диктатор,
Apr 11, 2014 Hannah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spring-2014
Before Night Falls is a fascinating book that blurs the line between real and unreal. Arenas is often so honest about his life and his sufferings that it feels as if he is imparting a secret to you. I wish I had read Arenas's other works prior to reading this one, as I believe I would have been less confused. I also wish that I had known more about the history of Cuba, the literary figures mentioned, and about his life prior to embarking on this. Reading one's memoirs before ever reading their o ...more
Davisson Alves
Jul 24, 2016 Davisson Alves rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Consegui me identificar profundamente com as memórias do autor descritas na primeira parte, em que narra sua infância, entre as árvores, matas, lagos, uma infância humildade e nem por isso privada de alegria.
Me identifiquei também com a sua relação com as letras, os livros, sem referências próximas, descobrindo a literatura ao acaso, perdido, experimentado até encontrar o que lhe falava à alma.
Por fim, suas primeiras relações, sua mãe, tias, a forte figura da avó e a figura pálida do avô, uma v
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Arenas was born in the countryside, in the northern part of the Province of Oriente, Cuba, and later moved to the city of Holguín. In 1963, he moved to Havana to enroll in the School of Planification and, later, in the Faculty of Letters at the Universidad de La Habana, where he studied philosophy and literature without completing a degree. The following year, he began working at the Biblioteca Na ...more
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“La diferencia entre el sistema comunista y el capitalista es que, aunque los dos nos den una patada en el culo, en el comunista te la dan y tienes que aplaudir, y en el capitalista te la dan y uno puede gritar.” 18 likes
“These, to be sure, were farfetched hopes, hopes born of despair, but hope is, after all, mostly for the desperate.” 7 likes
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