Customer Reviews for

Before Night Falls: A Memoir

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    Before Night Falls: A Memoir

    March 13, 2009: This book is riveting, spellbinding, exiting, honest and heart breaking. Arenas tells a story of strength, endurance and perseverance under such brutal communist conditions during another time and place. The book is inspiring and I recommend it to anyone interested in history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2005

    'Transcending The Particularities of Sexual Orientation',

    Despite coming from a poor rural background, Reinaldo Arenas [1943-1990] was successful in having studied at Universidad de La Habana and later worked in the prestigious Biblioteca Nacional [National Library]. At bitter, even dangerous odds with the Revolutionary regime in Cuba both politically and on account of his open homosexuality, Arenas was expelled from Cuba in 1980 [during the Muriel Exodus] and lived in New York City, with AIDS, until his suicide in 1990. Shamefully underrated in this country, Arenas published more than a dozen remarkable works, many of which are now available in English translation. Arenas's highly acclaimed autobiography, BEFORE NIGHT FALLS, adapted to the large screen with the brilliant Spanish actor Javier Bardem in the title role, is a work that has all the resonance of true art and thus transcends the particularities of the artist's sexual orientation. What we have instead is a painfully honest portrait of intimacy and the insights its gives the reader are into the universal human condition. Arenas has the stunning ability [as seen in his fictional novel FAREWELL TO THE SEA, 1982] to reach out for the deepest frequencies of the heart, for those elusive qualities of the spirit... if you will. Arenas is exhilarated by life's realities and is excited by merely being alive. A large measure of that exhilaration, I'm convinced from a careful reading of his short stories and poetry, emanates from the thinking life, the life of reveries and of intimate reflection. As much drama takes place in the writer's mind as in his external life. Thinking and reflecting are keenly stimulating for this extraordinarily beleaguered artist. This autobiography is shocking and agonizing, but also vibrant and insightful, jubilant and witty ... and perhaps most reflective of the writer's multiplicity of moods, consistently rebellious to the core. Arenas's language is poetically eloquent. His is an art structured from and upon his own honesty and his unusual experiences ... not from clever word play or verbal pyrotechnics. Arenas deals in reality-facing and he addresses this reality with a special rhetoric of a kind of spiritual sensibility and a unique voice [rather bold for Latin American literature], thus transforming the real into a vision of what's true and honest, what's possible, what's beautiful. But of course, he committed suicide to end it, didn't he? In every sense of the term, Arenas's expressed passions are a humanist's vision that is earned and authenticated in his writing, one that all readers can feel and experience. I agree with reviewer Grady Harp, himself an outstanding poet, when he stated some time ago that Arenas wrote with a depth of 'truth and observation that exudes Magical Realism.' It was L. Frank Baum [THE WIZARD OF OZ] who remarked, 'There ARE strange creatures in this forest. But are they ALL wild?' Arenas is highly recommended reading! Alan Cambeira author of Azucar's Sweet Hope...Her Story Continues.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2003

    AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME

    One of my favorite books. Arenas' life is inspiring to say the least. A must read for any semi-intelligent person.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2003

    Amazing and tragic

    I was physically incapable of putting this book down once I had started it. It's an amazing, lyrical tale of childhood, adulthood and persecution in Castro's Cuba. The most tragic part of the book is, of course, that it's a true story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2002

    avid reader struggling to make it through another page

    It is rare that I do not finish reading a book that I purchase, but I have been struggling to make it to the half-way point of Before Night Falls. I did find the earlier passages of Arenas childhood to be very powerful. However, I feel that I have been wading through endless pages of sexual conquests. Although I am aware that this was a large part of Arenas life, it overshadows many of the other facets of his life, and the politics of the world he was living in.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2002

    A great shocker

    Arenas really blew me away with this one. The prison scenes were truly heart wrenching. That he survived that mess only to succomb to AIDS sucked. His whole life a struggle. A shining example of the resolve of a human being. I loved it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2001

    The Lifeblood and Voice of Hidden Generations

    Arenas represents the life of a group of people that, to this day, is suffering from such atrocities. The seeming Romanticism of this gripping story is, in every sense, Realism, clearly a result of Arena's passion for art and life. The tension such elements create--- intense hunger for beauty and life at the hands of death and suffering--- makes this book a painfully difficult piece to let go of or accept. Written in a conversational manner that so clearly evokes pictures of Cuba, Arenas succeeds in bringing everyone to the tiny island...even if you have never or will never visit. Just like 'Before Night Falls' provides a beautiful but sobering trip into Castro's Cuba for us on the outside, I only wonder if 'The Doorman' provides those in Cuba with an account of life in the US.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2001

    Incredible! An unbelievable story!

    What a remarkable story! At times. I caught myself doubting the reality of Reinaldo's life. I never imagined the opression and suffering the people of Cuba underwent under Castro's regime; it was very enlightening and at many times, quite shocking. I was also moved by the author's determination to break from the mold of Castro's burdensome campaign and into a land of freedom. Not just America, but a personal sense of freedom; this struggle is felt in his tone as he writes. I really admired his honesty and the beautiful manner in which he brings the most simple of things to life. A must read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2001

    The Promise Of Nothing

    It has been said that a writer writes best that which he knows. This book is a very frank account of RA life in Bautistas' and Castros' Cuba and finally in the United States. It left me wondering if he could have written as well had he been born to different circumstances and had left Cuba before Castro took power. Would that experience have open up the same fertile imagination? On the other hand it also made me wonder what other marvelous works we would have been able to enjoy had his talent been nurtured and allowed to thrive instead of suppressed by the Castro government. Ultimately the tragedy of RA life and work is the incredible waste of the communist experiment in Cuba. For the first time, while reading this book, I realized the futility and boredom of what it is like to live in Castros Cuba. A place where all art, culture and beauty is supressed in order that the masses can be fed a false and failed political doctrine over and over. A life where getting something to eat occupies so much time that you have no strength left to resist the absurd bureacracy that stifles all life. In this context RA work takes on even more meaning. When you realize it was created in a country that offered him the promise of nothing. No material reward for his work no praise, no encouragement.... only the opposite of all those things.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2001

    sex, politics, and cigarettes

    the movie goes into new areas of cinematic excellences, the book will take you int new areas of yourself. it will shock, disgust, make you cry and laugh, sometimes in one single paragraph. i love reinaldo arenas' style and literacy. it pains me to know this was his last work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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