"...he lived a life whose beginning and end were indeed the same: from the start, one long, sustained sexual act..." says Guillermo Cabrera about Aren...more"...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 and these incidents end up in invariably faux pas hijinx when he talks about how his cousin (or someone) accidentally kills a chicken, and a whole bunch of his friends fuck a goat. Man, that's some crazy sex. Also, throughout the book, characters are constantly popping boners, everyone's outward feelings and aggressions, transgressions and character mannerisms are somehow translated back to their sexuality. I liked this book, a whole fucking lot. But man, it's crazier about sex than Benny Hill. I read it a while ago. I think he fucked a dog too, i can't remember.
But hey, you shouldn't get shelved on the idea of this guy as a bestial terrorist, it's nothing like that. he's a sexual provocateur, and this statement is even more alive within the context of his run-ins with the government. one of the most interesting parts of this book, i'd say, is how he denies sexual encounters in prison. The house of sexual implosion, rape city. Homosexuals were faced with a supremely masculine cultural more that was pressured to impress machoism and repress all aspects of feminine decor in men(any country where beards are the jount are probably all about macho camraderie; is that fair to say?) So he describes the terrors of not only being a political dissident in prison, but being a HOMOSEXUAL political prisoner which is like being on fire as you crash into a flaming wall. So this section of a memoir completely devoted to the sexual apotheosis of the otherwise shelved sensual world is suddenly reversed when he has to bite his lip, hide his boner and try to avoid the sexual deviancy taking over in a prison that is a microcosm of the worst politics Cuba has to offer devoting its utmost energies to a fascist reversion of the homosexual contra that the system seems to be so convinced thereof.
Like i said, i liked this book a lot. Although it sure did shine a pretty harsh light on the communist system, which i guess i had a lot of reserved hope for. HERE, let me offer you up a pretty quote detailing the pitfalls of the system: "the difference between the communist and the capitalist system is that, although both give you a kick in the ass, in the communist system you have to applaud, while in the capitalist system you can scream. And i came [to the US] to scream." I think my biggest problem with the realities Arenas found in communism were the subversive actions of his supposed friends within a system that is supposed to be cooperative. I guess an honest thing this book projects is the lack of hope for ideal structures in government and in life, and how the system never owned up to its own failings. It merely reported a life that was not happening. This book turned me against the likes of Gabriel Marcia Marquez and loads of Cuban poets who Arenas describes with scorn on account of their backstabbing too many poets who were not for or critical of the communist system. I realized it is not fair to abash certain talented writers ad hominem for the sake of one poet's opinion of their character, but he paints a pretty grim light on certain figureheads with their backstabbing. Oh well, it's his memoir, he can hate who he wants. Besides, he went through tons of shit trying to identify himself in a country which he loved but which tried to damn him because of what they projected as a threatening liberal attitude. It makes sense that his character was so repressed in the country of which he was so attached, that he came to the US just gushing with scathing denouncements for the people who betrayed him. hmm, maybe that's a bit hypocritical as well. Only human though.
In all, this book is a detached centrifuge, an image from his deathbed of the Cuba he knew represented himself and was as much a part of him as it wasn't represented in the regime which tried to quash his sensual enlightenment. This book was his swan song that he had to deliver to the people and the place from a distance, and i suppose he was very bitter because of it, as he said "the exile is a person who, having lost a loved one, keeps searching for the face he loves in every new face and, forever deceiving himself, thinks he has found it." In a sense, this book is really sad, but i think it also offers up a very hopeful image of the human figure. This one guy, a faggot writer with no sense better than any reasonably intelligent individual managed to stand up to a system which he just simply did not agree with, and while his death came before the regime's end, so that his stand in effect lost to the test of time, he still was able to project the poetry of his feat, the journey in a brilliant novel filled with immaculate sensations and the energy of a sexual hunger, the likes of which can only be compared to an overdrive of primitive necessity and fascinating devotion to the maddening human drive for affection and inspiration and need. To leave on a quote, i like this one...Try to understand that he may be talking about a little more than the muttering schizophrenic haunting his dilapidated apartment complex before he moved out of Cuba: "i have never understood madness too well, but feel that in a way insane people are angels who, unable to bear the realities around them, must somehow take refuge in another world." (less)