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Graveyard Of The Angels by Reinaldo Arenas. New York. 1987. Avon. Paperback Original. Translated from the Spanish by Alfred J. MacAdam. 122 pages. May 1987. paperback. 0380750759

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   ‘A GREAT LOVE IS, ABOVE ALL, A GREAT PROVOCATION. .. ‘ A beautiful young mulatto in long-ago Havana, Cuba, takes a white man into her bed. In itself, this act of love was more commonplace than remarkable. But Cecilia Valdés was the illegitimate daughter of don Cándido, a wealthy slave trader arid coffee baron. Her inamorato was Leonardo, don Cándido’s son. Such can be the stuff of tragedy. For highly acclaimed exiled Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, it is the jumping-off place for hilarious farce-risque, absurd, wildly funny, and quintessentially irreverent. Arenas, whose searing prose has exposed the brutalities and haunting beauty of his native land in his earlier works, tells here a tale filled with heartbreak; touches it with magic; and creates a fantastic, bittersweet tragicomedy that captures the essence of the bondage of the human heart. ‘A remarkable writer as much for his talent as for his intellectual dignity. I am his reader and his admirer!’ - Octavio Paz.

 

  Reinaldo Arenas (July 16, 1943 - December 7, 1990) was a Cuban poet, novelist, and playwright who despite his early sympathy for the 1959 revolution, grew critical of and then rebelled against the Cuban government. 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 Nacional José Martí. While there, his talent was noticed and he was awarded prizes at Cirilo Villaverde National Competition held by UNEAC (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). (Soto 1998) Interestingly, his Hallucinations was awarded ‘first Honorable Mention’ in 1966 although, as the judges could find no better entry, no First Prize was awarded that year (Colchie 2001). His writings and openly gay lifestyle were, by 1967, bringing him into conflict with the Communist government. He left the Biblioteca Nacional and became an editor for the Cuban Book Institute until 1968. From 1968 to 1974 he was a journalist and editor for the literary magazine La Gaceta de Cuba. In 1973, he was sent to prison after being charged and convicted of ‘ideological deviation’ and for publishing abroad without official consent. He escaped from prison and tried to leave Cuba by launching himself from the shore on a tire inner tube. The attempt failed and he was rearrested near Lenin Park and imprisoned at the notorious El Morro Castle alongside murderers and rapists. He survived by helping the inmates to write letters to wives and lovers. He was able to collect enough paper this way to continue his writing. However, his attempts to smuggle his work out of prison were discovered and he was severely punished. Threatened with death, he was forced to renounce his work and was released in 1976. In 1980, as part of the Mariel Boatlift, he fled to the United States. Despite his short life and the hardships imposed during his imprisonment, Arenas produced a significant body of work. His Pentagonia is a set of five novels that comprise a ‘secret history’ of post revolutionary Cuba. It includes the poetical Farewell to the Sea, Palace of the White Skunks and the Rabelaisian Color of Summer. In these novels Arenas’ style ranges from a stark realist narrative to absurd satiric humor. He traces his own life story in what to him is the absurd world of Castro’s Cuba. In each of the novels Arenas himself is a major character, going by a number of pseudonyms. His autobiography, Before Night Falls was on the New York Times list of the ten best books of the year in 1993. In 2000 this work was made into a film, directed by Julian Schnabel, in which Arenas was played by Javier Bardem. In 1987, Arenas was diagnosed with AIDS, but he continued to write and speak out against the Cuban government. He mentored many Cuban Exile writers, including John O’Donnell-Rosales. After battling AIDS, Arenas committed suicide by taking an overdose of drugs and alcohol on December 7, 1990, in New York. In a suicide letter written for publication, Arenas wrote: ‘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 want to encourage the Cuban people out of the country as well as on the Island to continue fighting for freedom. Cuba will be free. I already am.’

 

 

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