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Before Night Falls

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  2,542 ratings  ·  242 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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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
Aug 03, 2009 Fabian rated it 5 of 5 stars
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 is 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 is proud of himself, nev
Jun 03, 2009 Caris rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: cuba, 2009
I had no prior knowledge of Cuba when I started this book. Having finished it, I'm not really sure what the quality of my education on the subject has been.

Arenas paints a rather bleak picture of his native land. He describes life under Batista as unbearable and then under Castro as even more horrific. He talks of prisons, concentration camps, and slave labor. If what he says is true, he thoroughly exposes the inhumanity of the Cuban government.

I was surprised that nothing on the book- not the b
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
Lissette Rosa
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
Feb 14, 2008 Jason rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Robert Beveridge
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
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
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
"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.
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
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
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
Moses Kilolo
"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
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
Mawa Sando
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
Jennifer Mccombs
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
"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, м
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
Maartje (Tizzalicious) Witteveen
I probably would have liked this more if it had stuck to the basics. I know it's a memoirs, and maybe this guy was a weird sex pervert who had sex with animals and his cousin as a kid, and over 2000 strangers when he was older, but that was not was I hoping to read about when I started out.

I thought it would be about a NORMAL gay guy/writer and his struggles under the castro regime. Somehow Reinaldo Arenas made it seem that having sex with random strangers constantly is something all gay guys d
While Arenas' memoir has the pretensions of being a heartbreaking literary account of life in Castro’s Cuba for a homosexual writer, it is really a highly embellished narcissistic machismo fest in diary form by a dood who has had a lot of issues since childhood (see: raping all the animals on the farm) who feels oppressed when he can’t have sex and masturbate in public. :(
Joseph Harris
The final, beautiful words of a dying genius, Arenas' memoir is brilliant on several levels: as a literacy autobiography charting his love affair with writing; as an erotic recollection that celebrates the transcendence of lust; and a treatise on the biting anger of never once (due to poverty, political regimes, sexual orientation and stigmatized disease) being able to be free. If I ever teach a creative writing course, this will be on my syllabus every semester. Haunting, lyrical, and in turns ...more
Remember when memoirists actually had something to say...?
Oscar Hernández
Third most beautiful book I have ever read.
Troy Rutman
You can fall in love with a ghost
April Isaacs
This is one of the greatest beginnings to a memoir I've ever read: Reinaldo Arenas writes that he's dying of AIDS, that he must finish his life story "before night falls" and that he sees no point in living since no one wants to fuck him anymore.

There are all kinds of juicy tidbits in here, shocking and thrilling to read. It's an adventure book. I can't remember reading a contemporary memoir that has even a fraction of the sense of adventure that Arenas has written. The characters, the poetic e
César R. Luna
Lo primero que noté con este libro es que se siente como una obra muy sincera. A diferencia del único otro libro que he leído de él, este se enfrenta con una realidad muy verdadera que dista mucho de aquellas imágenes borrosas y fantasiosas de Celestino antes del alba.

Reinaldo Arenas te lleva de la mano por esa vida contada sin tapujos ni miedo al prejuicio del lector. Entre sus páginas podemos encontrar aspectos muy fuertes de su infancia como el incesto o hasta zoofilia que son como un balde
I really liked this book. It is radically erotic, disturbing, powerful, yet so essential for EVERY AMERICAN to read. It's so easy for the reader to say"Wow, that could never happen in America" but it does! Our government is just less obvious about it. I'll avoid my rant for now.
I'm giving it four stars instead of five because I read The Color of Summer: or The New Garden of Earthly Delights also and his writing there is absolutely beautiful and he so much funnier than he is here. I read The Colo
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La Stamberga dei ...: Prima che sia notte di Reinaldo Arenas 1 3 May 19, 2013 03:33AM  
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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.” 13 likes
“Before getting to my mother's house, I would always think of her on the porch or even on the street, sweeping. She had a light way of sweeping, as if removing the dirt were not as important as moving the broom over the ground. Her way of sweeping was symbolic; so airy, so fragile, with a broom she tried to sweep away all the horrors, all the loneliness, all the misery that had accompanied her all her life...” 6 likes
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