Color of Summer

Reinaldo Arenas, Author Viking Books $28.95 (544p) ISBN 978-0-670-84065-6
Reinaldo Arenas was the cursed visionary of late 20th-century Cuban literature, imprisoned by Castro and shunned by pro-Cuba leftist intellectuals in this country after he came over in the Mariel boatlift. His open queerness shocked his contemporaries. This novel is the fourth in a cycle of five novels, dubbed the Pentagonia (the fifth in the series, The Assault, was published in 1994). It operates on a number of levels, like a noisy and particularly chaotic party. The most straightforward segment of the plot concerns the tyrant Fifo's 50th-anniversary celebration. It is typical of the grandiose, bloated Fifo that it is actually the 40th anniversary of the revolution--Fifo even lies about arithmetic. The island over which Fifo presides is a vast, groaning prison, dotted by real prisons, like El Morro, where Arenas was actually imprisoned. Fifo keeps control with an army of midgets and a flotilla of sharks that circle the island and prevent anyone from escaping. However, the island queens (mercilessly hunted by Fifo's minions, although Fifo and most of his court have dabbled in men) have been nibbling away at the base of the island, trying to unmoor it. On another level, this is Arenas's autobiography. His character has three names: Skunk in a Funk, his queer nom de guerre; Gabriel, the writer; and Reinaldo, the real person. The tripartite division of his character, and of others, entails dizzying changes of gender and jumps between levels of reality. Arenas has a nice vaudevillian touch, scattering scabrous reference to recent events and people as he bounces from skit to skit. A chapter entitled ""The Confession of H. Puntilla"" is modeled on the real recantation of Heberto Padilla in 1971, with anatomically impossible flourishes. Unfortunately, the flood of Cuban marginalia makes this book, at times, almost indecipherable for the non-Cuban reader. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/03/2000
Release date: 07/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 465 pages - 978-0-14-015719-2
Paperback - 472 pages - 978-84-8310-082-0
Open Ebook - 455 pages - 978-0-7865-2384-9
Open Ebook - 496 pages - 978-1-101-19932-9
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