In Before Night Falls, Arenas recounts his journey from a poverty-stricken childhood in rural Cuba to his death in New York four decades later. In between he tells of his odyssey from adolescent rebel fighting for the Revolution, through his suppression as a writer, his disillusionment with Castro, his imprisonment and torture, and his eventual flight from Cuba. Before Night Falls illuminates the importance of Arenas' life as a symbol of the individual against society and of the potential for art to liberate, and confirms the power of the outcast to see and record the truth. In distilled and powerful language, Before Night Falls tells Arenas' own story -- a Kafkaesque life re-created in his highly acclaimed novels.
In this powerful memoir of passions both personal and political, Cuban author Arenas (Hallucinations) describes his voyage from peasant poverty to his oppression as a dissident writer and homosexual. His voracious sexuality pervades the book (numerous encounters are described), and Arenas suggests that the gay world is instinctually non-monogamous, though he was celibate in the ``monstrosity'' of prison. The young Arenas, in the early days of Fidel Castro's revolution, gained his literary education working at the National Library; he then joined a fervent literary cricle. The Castro regime, however, banned his first novel, The Ill-Fated Peregrinations of Fray Servando, and Arenas had to evade security police to smuggle manuscripts abroad for publication. Protesting Castro's support of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Arenas suffered forced labor in the sugarcane fields, spent more than two years in prison after being prosecuted as a homosexual counterrevolutionary, and managed to gain exile along with many other gays during the 1980 Mariel boatlift. Having appended a fierce denunciation to this book of those seeking dialogue with Castro, the 47-year-old Arenas, who was suffering from AIDS, committed suicide in New York City in 1990.