Biography Of Reinaldo Arenas

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Biography of Reinaldo Arenas


Arenas, Reinaldo (16 July 1943-7 Dec. 1990), novelist and political activist, was born in Holguín, a town in rural eastern Cuba, the son of Oneida Fuentes, a poor peasant woman, and a peasant father who abandoned his unborn child. Barely sixteen years old at the time of the Cuban Revolution. Arenas received excellent instruction during the Campaigns against Illiteracy conducted by volunteers sympathetic to Fidel Castro's ideals. Such an opportunity for self-improvement was unheard of during the regime of the deposed leader, Fulgencio Batista. In 1960 Arenas received a scholarship so that he might pursue a career in accounting in Havana.


Arenas began to write while working at the National Library from 1963 to 1968. In 1965 his first novel, Celestino antes Del Alba, received a literary prize from the Casa Del Autor Cubano (the Cuban Writers' Guild), and in 1969 it won the French Prix Medici for the best foreign novel. The book did not attract much attention from Cuban critics, however, when it was published in Cuba in 1967. In 1966 his second novel, El mundo alucinante, was awarded a literary prize by the Cuban Writers' Guild. The book was never published in Cuba (Alfred J., 2011, pp. 89).

Eventually Arenas's enthusiasm for the revolution faded as he confronted the socialist doctrinaire norms. His work came to be viewed as counterrevolutionary and its liberal approach to sex and its lack of political activism provoked legal persecution. Although his works were published in several foreign languages, the Cuban government denied him permission to travel abroad at the invitation of academic institutions. In 1977 he was forced to work in a labor camp despite his stature as a well-known novelist.

His Life Social, Political, Personal and Physical Affected By the Cuban Government

Persecution of Arenas had begun in 1965, when he was expelled from the University of Havana for having "dubious morality and ideological frames. Many of his friends disappeared from their homes, punished for their deviations from the proper socialist moral code. Their crimes included violations of the dress code (wearing tight clothes or blue jeans and having long hair or Afros) and refusal to comply with civilian responsibilities like the obligatory military service. These young men were taken into work camps that combined physical labor, mostly agricultural, with indoctrination of Communist teachings. For a time Arenas escaped work in the camps by going underground. Eventually, however, he had to return to the visible world because he lacked the mandatory official identification card; the inability to show an ID during random police inspections constituted a violation punishable by jail sentences (Enrique Morales-Díaz, 2011, pp. 58).

In 1974 Arenas was imprisoned, accused of corrupting a minor and of violating national copyright laws when he published abroad without official permission. The guards' failure to lock his cell allowed him to escape, and for forty-five days he pleaded, without result, for help from such international peace groups as the United Nations, UNESCO, and the Red Cross. Later, as Arenas had feared, the police captured him and forced him to write letters stating his satisfaction with the Cuban system. In jail Arenas staged ...
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