Antes Que Anochezca = Before Night Falls
Reinaldo Arenas. TusQuets, $25.95 (360pp) ISBN 978-84-7223-485-7
With the success of Julian Schnabel's art-house movie Before Night Falls, based on the autobiography of Arenas and starring Spanish actor Javier Bardem, Arenas has begun to solidify his place in the Latin American canon. Almost unknown when he killed himself in 1990 (Jaime Manrique noted in the Village Voice that fewer than a dozen people attended Arena's funeral), Arenas is now recognized as one of Cuba's most furious and unconventional novelists, an accomplishment that is especially stunning when one learns that Arenas was an autodidact who carved his first poems into the trunks of trees. Arenas was born in the Cuban countryside in 1943, and as a teenager he supported Castro's revolution. But later on, his opposition to government policies and his status as a homosexual marked him as a ""social danger"" and a ""counterrevolutionary""--in the '70s, he was arrested and spent two years in El Morro prison. In 1980, he escaped the island and moved to the United States. At his death, Arenas left behind an impressive body of work: seven novels, a book of essays, an autobiography, and scores of poems. The Spanish publisher Tusquets has set out to republish all of Arenas's works, many of which are still difficult to find. In addition to Antes que anochezca, Arenas's moving autobiography, which he completed in New York City just days before he died, the publisher is now reprinting El palacio de las blanqu simas mofetas, the third installment of Arenas's quintet of novels about Cuban history. Tusquets has already published the first two parts: El color del verano (The Color of Summer) and Celestino antes del alba (Celestino Before Dawn). Set in the time of Batista's dictatorship, El palacio follows the adventures of Fortunato, a young man who escapes the limitations of country life, and a series of failed romances, by joining the rebel army that threatens to overthrow Batista. These books will be of interest to all public and academic libraries and bookstores of all sizes.
Reviewed on: 02/03/1992