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POETA EN LA LUNA DE CUBA

LINDEN LANE PRESS Issue 2:

A book of poetry by René Dayre Abella, Cuban poet living in San Diego, California. /Un libro de poemas de René Dayre Abella, poeta cubano residente en San Diego, California.

Cita de Jorge Luis Borges

"Las dictaduras fomentan la opresión, las dictaduras fomentan el servilismo, las dictaduras fomentan la crueldad más abominable es el hecho de que fomentan la idiotez. Botones que balbucean imperativos, efigies de líderes, vivas y mueras prefijados, muros exornados de nombres, ceremonias unánimes, la mera disciplina usurpando el lugar de la lucidez... Combatir esas tristes monotonías es uno de los muchos deberes de un escritor".
Jorge Luis Borges.

EL BLOG DEL POETA RENÉ DAYRE

http://www.viadeo.com/invite/rene-dayre.abella-hernandez

José Lezama Lima: La mar violeta añora el nacimiento de los dioses,
ya que nacer es aquí una fiesta innombrable,
un redoble de cortejos y tritones reinando.


lunes, 7 de diciembre de 2009

REINALDO ARENAS IN MEMORIAM.


 
arenas.jpg (55942 bytes)


REINALDO   ARENAS
"Esa tarde me fui para mi casa caminando, llegué al cuarto, y seguí escribiendo un poema. Era un poema largo que se titulaba "Morir en junio y con la lengua fuera". A los pocos días tuve que interrumpir mi poema, pues alguien me había entrado por la ventana del cuarto y me había robado la máquina de escribir. Fue un robo serio, porque para mí aquella máquina de escribir era no sólo la única pertenencia de valor que tenía en aquel cuarto, sino el objeto más preciado con el que yo podía contar. Sentarme a escribir era, y aún lo sigue siendo, algo extraordinario; yo me inspiraba (como un pianista) en el ritmo de aquellas teclas y ellas mismas me llevaban. Los párrafos se sucedían unos a otros como el oleaje del mar; una veces más intensos y otras menos; otras veces como ondas gigantescas que cubrían páginas y páginas sin llegar a un punto y aparte. Mi máquina era una Underwood vieja y de hierro, pero constituía para mí un instrumento mágico"
 

Reinaldo Arenas (Holguín, 1943 - Nueva York, 1990)
      Sin duda, la voz literaria más polémica y desgarrada de la literatura cubana del siglo XX. Lamentablemente para su autor, la obra de Arenas ha venido a ser reconocida sólo después de su muerte. Poseedor de una exquisita capacidad para narrar, su técnica literaria, su irreverencia y sus reflexiones, constituyen toda una riqueza para las letras hispanoamericanas. Sus tres rasgos malditos, como él mismo destacó --ser homosexual, no religioso y anticastrista-- retrasaron su reconocimiento internacional. Las circunstancias han hecho que sea conocido antes por su vida que por su obra, máxima y última versión del llamado realismo mágico. 
       Su obra quedó marcada por su vida. Quien ha leído su biografía, puede reconocer muchos pasajes de sus libros en los eventos de su azarosa existencia. 
       Su madre fue abandonada por su marido poco después del nacimiento de Reinaldo, y se vio obligada a volver a la granja de sus padres. El niño se educó en el seno de esa humilde familia campesina, en un ambiente de gran libertad y rodeado de un paisaje espectacular y hermoso. Casi no había cumplido los 13 años cuando ya escribía sus primeros poemas. Descubrió su pasión por la literatura al mismo tiempo que su homosexualidad. 
       Se unió a la Revolución antes de que triunfara, en 1958, y colaboró con ella durante un tiempo. En 1962 se instalaba en la capital cubana, emocionado y lleno de ilusión por el ambiente cosmopolita de la ciudad. Al año siguiente ingresó en el equipo de trabajo de la prestigiosa Biblioteca Nacional José Martí. Allí escribió y publicó su primera novela, Celestino antes del alba (1967), que sorprendería por su novedad. Sería su única obra publicada en Cuba.
      Al poco tiempo, la policía empezó a acosarle por sus ideas políticas y por sus vínculos con la floreciente subcultura homosexual de La Habana, entonces en plena elosión. A partir de entonces, Arenas fue perseguido de forma implacable. 
      En la década de los años 60, el régimen tomó durísimas medidas contra la homosexualidad y los artistas. Mientras muchos escritores eran acosados porque escribían textos que no siempre alababan al régimen, los homosexuales eran enviados directamente a campos de trabajo forzado. En una de estas prisiones, Reinaldo comenzó a escribir El mundo alucinante (1966), que muchos consideran su mejor novela. Esta obra recrea la vida de fray Servando Teresa de Mier, fraile mexicano que vivió en el siglo XVIII y que es encarcelado por sus ideas. La novela fue sacada clandestinamente de la isla y publicada en el extranjero, con lo que Arenas se ganó la total hostilidad del gobierno de Fidel Castro.
      En 1973 fue encausado por contrarrevolucionario al intentar huir de la prisión, donde había ingresado debido a una falsa acusación de abuso sexual. El intento de huida le convirtió en un fugitivo, hasta que fue capturado e internado en la prisión de El Morro, una cárcel para criminales comunes. Allí sufrió dos años de palizas, torturas y trabajos forzados (1974-1976) hasta que lograron arrancarle una autoinculpación. 
      Arenas fue un escritor compulsivo y a veces escribió en condiciones patéticas. Casi todas sus obras sufrieron diversos percances: fueron censuradas, editadas, escondidas y destruidas.
      Entre los mejores amigos de Arenas en la isla se encontraban Juan Abreu y sus hermanos José y Nicolás, todos ellos escritores que hoy viven exiliados (el primero en España y los otros dos en Estados Unidos). Gracias a Abreu y su familia, algunos de los escritos de Arenas se salvaron de la destrucción castrista, porque ellos los mantuvieron ocultos mientras el escritor estaba en prisión o prófugo. 
      Durante muchos años, el objetivo principal de Arenas fue escapar de la isla, lo cual finalmente logró en 1980 con el éxodo de Mariel. Vivió por breve tiempo en Miami, donde se reencontró con Juan Abreu. Fruto de la colaboración de ambos, surgió la revista literaria "Mariel" (1983-1987). 
      Durante sus once años de exilio Arenas elaboró casi toda su obra, compuesta por numerosos libros, entre novelas, cuentos, poemas y obras de teatro. Destaca la famosa "Pentagonía" (juego de palabras inventado por el propio Arenas compuesto por «pentalogía» o serie de cinco novelas y «agonía»). La Pentagonía está compuesta por las novelas Celestino antes del alba, El palacio de las blanquísimas mofetas. Otra vez el mar, El color del verano y El asalto. 
      Arenas se trasladó a Nueva York, ciudad donde enfermó de sida en 1987. Tras el diagnóstico de la enfermedad, se obligó a sí mismo a concluir todas las obras que había pensado escribir.
      Se dice que su suicidio en 1990 no sorprendió a su íntimo círculo de amistades, ya que en diversas ocasiones había manifestado su horror por la tercera edad. Además, su larga agonía por el sida había empeorado las cosas. En la madrugada del 7 de diciembre ingirió gran cantidad de pastillas y falleció. 
      Su obra, traducida a numerosas lenguas, es extensa. Un resumen de las más importantes: Celestino antes del alba (La Habana, 1967), El mundo alucinante (1969), El palacio de las blanquísimas mofetas (1980), El Central (1981), Termina el desfile (1981), Otra vez el mar (1982), El asalto (1990), El portero (1990), Viaje a La Habana (1990), Final de un cuento (1991), El color del verano o nuevo 'jardín de las delicias' (Ediciones Universal, Miami, 1991; Tusquets, 1999), Arturo, la estrella más brillante, Adiós a mamá y su autobiografía póstuma Antes que anochezca (Tusquets, 1992).


Reinaldo Arenas (Cuba, 1943-1990)
El mundo alucinante (fragmento)
" El verano. Los pájaros derretidos en pleno vuelo, caen, como plomo hirviente, sobre las cabezas de los arriesgados transeúntes, matándolos al momento.
El verano. La isla, como un pez de metal alargado, centellea y lanza destellos y vapores ígneos que fulminan.
El verano. El mar ha comenzado a evaporarse, y una nube azulosa y candente cubre toda la ciudad.
El verano. La gente, dando voces estentóreas, corre hasta la laguna central, zambulléndose entre sus aguas caldeadas y empastándose con fango toda la piel, para que no se le desprenda el cuerpo.
El verano. Las mujeres, en el centro de la calle, empiezan a desnudarse, y echan a correr sobre los adoquines que sueltan chispas y espejean.
El verano. Yo, dentro del morro, brinco de un lado a otro. Me asomo entre la reja y miro al puerto hirviendo. Y me pongo a gritar que me lancen de cabeza al mar.
El verano. La fiebre del calor ha puesto de mala sangre a los carceleros que, molestos por mis gritos, entran a mi celda y me muelen a golpes. Pido a Dios que me conceda una prueba de su existencia mandándome la muerte. Pero dudo que me oiga. De estar Dios aquí se hubiera vuelto loco.
El verano. Las paredes de mi celda van cambiando de color, y de rosado pasan a rojo, y de rojo al rojo vino, y de rojo vino a negro brillante... el suelo empieza también a brillar como un espejo, y del techo se desprenden las primeras chispas. Solo dándole brincos me puedo sostener, pero en cuanto vuelvo a apoyar los pies siento que se me achicharran. Doy brincos. Doy brincos. Doy brincos.
El verano. Al fin el calor derrite los barrotes de mi celda, y salgo de este horno al rojo, dejando parte de mi cuerpo chamuscado entre los bordes de la ventana, donde el aceite derretido aun reverbera.
(…)
Pero las revoluciones no se hacen en las cárceles, si bien es cierto que generalmente allí es donde se engendran. Se necesita tanta acumulación de odio, tantos golpes de cimitarra y redobles de bofetadas, para al fin iniciar este interminable y ascendente proceso de derrumbe.
(…)
Las manos son lo mejor que indica el avance del tiempo.
Las manos, que antes de los veinte años empiezan a envejecer.
Las manos, que no se cansan de investigar ni darse por vencidas.
Las manos, que se alzan triunfantes y luego descienden derrotadas.
Las manos, que tocan las transparencias de la tierra.
Que se posan tímidas y breves.
Que no saben y presienten que no saben.
Que indican el límite del sueño.
Que planean la dimensión del futuro.
Estas manos, que conozco y sin embargo me confunden.
Estas manos, que me dijeron una vez: -tienta y escapa-.
Estas manos, que ya vuelven presurosas a la infancia.
Estas manos, que no se cansan de abofetear a las tinieblas.
Estas manos, que solamente han palpado cosas reales.
Estas manos, que ya casi no puedo dominar.
Estas manos, que la vejez ha vuelto de colores.
Estas manos, que marcan los límites del tiempo.
Que se levantan y de nuevo buscan el sitio.
Que señalan y quedan temblorosas.
Que saben que hay música aun entre sus dedos.
Estas manos, que ayudan ahora a sujetarse.
Estas manos, que se alargan y tocan el encuentro.
Estas manos, que me piden, cansadas, que ya muera. "

Antes que anochezca (fragmento)
" Oh Luna! Siempre estuviste a mi lado, alumbrándome en los momentos más terribles; desde mi infancia fuiste el misterio que velaste por mi terror, fuiste el consuelo en las noches mas desesperadas, fuiste mi propia madre, bañándome en un calor que ella tal vez nunca supo brindarme; en medio del bosque, en los lugares más tenebrosos, en el mar; allí estabas tu acompañándome; eras mi consuelo, siempre fuiste la que me orientaste en los momentos más difíciles. Mi gran diosa, mi verdadera diosa, que me has protegido de tantas calamidades; hacia ti en medio del mar; hacia ti junto a la costa; hacia ti entre las costas de mi isla desolada. Elevaba la mirada y te miraba; siempre la misma; en tu rostro veía una expresión de dolor, de amargura, de compasión hacia mí; tu hijo. Y ahora, súbitamente, luna, estallas en pedazos delante de mi cama. Ya estoy solo. Es de noche. "

The Parade Ends
" Paseos por las calles que revientan,
pues las cañerías ya no dan más
por entre edificios que hay que esquivar,
pues se nos vienen encima,
por entre hoscos rostros que nos escrutan y sentencian,
por entre establecimientos cerrados,
mercados cerrados,
cines cerrados,
parques cerrados,
cafeterías cerradas.
Exhibiendo a veces carteles (justificaciones) ya polvorientos,
CERRADO POR REFORMAS,
CERRADO POR REPARACIÓN.
¿Qué tipo de reparación?
¿Cuándo termina dicha reparación, dicha reforma?
¿Cuándo, por lo menos,
empezará?
Cerrado...cerrado...cerrado...
todo cerrado...
Llego, abro los innumerables candados, subo corriendo la improvisada escalera.
Ahí está, ella, aguardándome.
La descubro, retiro la lona y contemplo sus polvorientas y frías dimensiones.
Le quito el polvo y vuelvo a pasarle la mano.
Con pequeñas palmadas limpio su lomo, su base, sus costados.
Me siento, desesperado, feliz, a su lado, frente a ella,
paso las manos por su teclado, y, rápidamente, todo se pone en marcha.
El ta ta, el tintineo, la música comienza, poco a poco, ya más rápido
ahora, a toda velocidad.
Paredes, árboles, calles,
catedrales, rostros y playas,
celdas, mini celdas,
grandes celdas,
noche estrellada, pies
desnudos, pinares, nubes,
centenares, miles,
un millón de cotorras
taburetes y una enredadera.
Todo acude, todo llega, todos vienen.
Los muros se ensanchan, el techo desaparece y, naturalmente, flotas,
flotas, flotas arrancado, arrastrado,
elevado,
llevado, transportado, eternizado,
salvado, en aras, y,
por esa minúscula y constante cadencia,
por esa música,
por ese ta ta incesante. "

Mi amante el mar (fragmento)
" Sólo el afán de un náufrago podría
remontar este infierno que aborrezco.
Crece mi furia y ante mi furia crezco
y solo junto al mar espero el día. "

Autor: Reinaldo Arenas
Tusquets Editores, Barcelona, 2002 (378 págs.)
 

Reinaldo Arenas (Cuba, 1943-1990) es ya una leyenda en la literatura de finales del siglo XX, tanto por sus obras como por su trágica existencia que terminó por sus propias manos en Nueva York, víctima de Sida. Tusquets Editores presenta de nuevo esta obra, siguiendo la revisión hecha por el propio autor sobre el texto publicado en 1982.
Dividida en dos partes, Otra vez el mar tiene como protagonista a un joven matrimonio que obtiene permiso para pasar unos días en un lugar de veraneo. La narración transita mediante dos voces. La primera es la de la una mujer anónima, temerosa de perder a su marido, frustrada por la carga de la maternidad e incapaz de soportar la sociedad cubana bajo el sistema comunista. Sus pensamientos, entrelazados con lo cotidiano, revelan su tormento y el doloroso amor que siente por su marido, de quien sospecha que le es infiel, sobre todo cuando un hermoso y taciturno adolescente se instala con su locuaz madre en el apartamento contiguo. En la segunda parte es la voz de Héctor, su marido, poeta y revolucionario desencantado, la que de una forma alegórica nos habla de la historia cubana y de sí mismo. Arenas expresa así las frustraciones y la añoranza de la libertad de esos dos seres e ilumina, página a página, al lector en el laberinto de insatisfacciones y anhelos de la pareja.

Singing from the WellSinging from the Well by Reinaldo Arenas
This first novel in Arenas's "secret history of Cuba"-- a quintet he called the Pentagonia--is a powerful story of growing up in a world where nightmare has become reality, and fantasy provides the only escape.

"One of the most beautiful novels ever written about childhood, adolescence, and life in Cuba." --Carlos Fuentes


Farewell to the Sea : A Novel of CubaFarewell to the Sea : A Novel of Cuba by Reinaldo Arenas, Andrew Hurley (Translator)
A young Cuban couple gain permission to spend a week at a beach resort. They spend most of their time sitting by the ocean, silent in private thought. We get inside her head for the 7 days and then into his, receiving different perspectives and views on the vacation, and on their current lives. Arenas does a fantastic job of expressing both her and his frustrations at their station in life, and in the freedom they feel has deserted them. She laments the burden of motherhood and the loss of her personal sense of self. He laments his loss of freedom as the Castro government clamps harder down on writers and artists. Also, driving his frustration is his own frustration as a closet homosexual in a straight, macho world. Arenas does not overtly state his themes, but reveals them like one peeling an onion. There is layer after layer to discover.. and the underlying themes of the novel come across through reverie and daydreams.. hallucinations of the young couple as they stare at the water. It is this non-linear dual-narrative style of writing that is so effective as through their private thoughts, we start to understand the true essence of the lives of this young, but jaded young couple. -- Brett A. Davis
by Reinaldo Arenas, Andrew Hurley (Translator)
The final work from "one of the few truly great writers to come out of Latin America in this century" (Chicago Tribune)

Critics worldwide have praised Reinaldo Arenas's writing. His extraordinary memoir, Before Night Falls, was chosen by the editors of The New York Times Book Review as one of the fourteen "Best Books of 1993" and was hailed as "one of the most shattering testimonials ever written" by Mario Vargas Llosa. His fiction "reveals a profoundly original writer . . . Reading Arenas is like witnessing a bare consciousness in the process of assimilating the most universal, but powerful, human experiences and turning them into literature" (The New York Times Book Review).

The Color of Summer, Arenas's finest comic achievement, is the fourth novel in a quintet he called the Pentagonia. Although it is the penultimate chapter in his "secret history of Cuba," it was, in fact, the last book Arenas wrote before his death in 1990. (The final volume, The Assault, was written first and published in 1994.) A Rabelaisian tale of survival by wits and wit, The Color of Summer is ultimately a powerful and passionate story about the triumph of the human spirit over the forces of political and sexual repression

Arenas, Reinaldo (1943-1990)
Raised in extreme poverty in Cuba, as a young man Arenas committed himself to Fidel Castro's revolution but grew to despise the repressive politics that resulted, especially as they pertained to the persecutions of lesbians and gay men. After the publication of a novel in 1967 he was blacklisted by the government and smuggled his manuscripts abroad.
Upon leaving Cuba in 1980 he celebrated his freedom through publishing and public appearances but later became critical of Cuba's emigrant community and of American gay men. After being diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, Arenas exerted a tremendous effort to finish several of his works he considered to be important statements he had to make as a writer.
Arenas's work includes: Arturo, la Estrella Mas Brillante (The Brightest Star), Singing From the Well, Hallucinations, El Central and Antes que Anochezca (Before Night Falls) an autobiographical account of the harrowing conditions of life in Cuba as well as rundown of dozen's of his estimated 10,000 sexual encounters completed in 1990, shortly before he committed suicide.
Arenas's Major Published Works:

Celestino antes del alba (La Habana: Ediciones Unión, 1967), republished as Cantando en el pozo (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1982), English translation by Andrew Hurley published as Singing from the Well (New York: Viking, 1987); El mundo alucinante, una novela de aventuras (Mexico: Editorial Diógenes, 1966), originally published in France as Le monde hallucinant (Paris: Editions Du Seuil, 1968), English translation by Gordon Brotherston published as Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Life and Adventures of Friar Servando Teresa de Mier (New York: Harper & Row, 1971); El palacio de las blanquísimas mofetas (Barcelona: Editorial Argos Vergara, 1983), first published in France as Le palais des trés blanches mouffettes (Paris: Editions Du Seuil, 1975), English translation by Andrew Hurley published as The Palace of the White Skunks (New York: Viking, 1990); El Central (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1981); Termina el desfile (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1981); Otra vez el mar (Barcelona: Editorial Argos Vergara, 1982), English translation by Andrew Hurley published as Farewell to the Sea, a Novel of Cuba (New York: Viking, 1986); Arturo, la estrella más brillante (Barcelona: Montesinos Editor, 1984), English translation by Andrew Hurley published as "The Brigthest Star" in Old Rosa: A Novel in Two Stories (New York: Grove Press, 1989); Necesidad de libertad (Mexico: Kosmos - Editorial, 1986); Persecución (cinco pieza de teatro experimental) (Miami, Ediciones Universal, 1986); La loma del angel (Barcelona: DADOR / ediciones, 1987), English translation by Alfred MacAdam published as Graveyard of the Angels (New York: Avon Books, 1987); Voluntad de vivir manifestándose (Madrid: Editorial Betania, 1989); El asalto (Miami: Ediciones Universal, 1990); Leprosorio (Trilogía poética) (Madrid: Editorial Betania, 1990); El portero (Miami: Ediciones Universal, 1990), English translation by Dolores M. Koch published as The Doorman (New York: Grove Press, 1991); Viaje a La Habana (Miami: Ediciones Universal, 1990); El color del verano o nuevo jardín de las delicias (Miami: Ediciones Universal, 1991); Final de un cuento (Diputación Provincial de Huelva: El Fantasma de la Glorieta, 1991); Antes que anochezca (Barcelona: Tusquets Editores, 1992).
Book of stories charts Reinaldo Arenas' hope, rage
By SUZANNE FERRISS
 

MONA AND OTHER TALES.
By Reinaldo Arenas.
 

LAST year the film Before Night Falls introduced American audiences to the life and career of Reinaldo Arenas, the writer who fled persecution in his native Cuba to live and write in exile in the United States.

Mona and Other Tales While the film, based on Arenas' memoir, stressed his poetry and a single novel, Hallucinations, he had a prolific career, publishing eight additional novels as well as plays, essays and three books of short stories. The 14 stories collected in Mona and Other Tales offer an accessible introduction to Arenas' fiction.
The collection includes stories written over the course of Arenas' writing life, from early experimental works written in Havana during what he called "the joyful sixties" to others written while imprisoned for "subversive" behavior -- homosexual and literary. The last were written in the 1980s, after Arenas' escape to Miami Beach, Fla., and then New York. Suffering with complications from AIDS, he committed suicide in 1990.
Inevitably, life in Cuba under Castro figures prominently in several stories. The Parade Begins (1965) focuses on a 14-year-old would-be revolutionary who, too young to fight, can only envision serving alongside the freedom fighters. In The Parade Ends, written 15 years later, disillusionment with the revolution is total, and Arenas invokes his own experiences to document Cuban oppression. The narrator plots to escape by raft, is caught and imprisoned, and writes as psychological relief:
In a thorough, delirious, and angry manner, I am incessantly letting out all my horror, my fury, my resentment, my hatred, my failure, our failure, our helplessness, all the humiliation, the mockery, the swindles, and lastly, simply all the beatings and kickings, the endless persecution. All, all of it. All that terror goes onto the paper, the blank page, which, once filled, is carefully hidden in the double ceiling of the loft, or inside dictionaries, or behind a cabinet: it is my revenge, my revenge.
Most of the stories situate Arenas as a participant in the astonishing period of literary creativity in Latin America from 1962 to 1970. In an essay that closes the volume, "The Joyful Sixties in Latin American Literature," Arenas singles out the extraordinary novels of Alejo Carpentier, Julio Cortazar, Mario Vargas Llosa, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Gabriel García Márquez and José Donoso. His own novel, Hallucinations, was smuggled out of Cuba and published in 1968 in France, where it was nominated for a Prix Medicis.
Like his contemporaries, Arenas experimented with magic realism. While many of the early stories seem more like exercises in experimentation than fully realized pieces of fiction, Mona represents Arenas working at the height of his form.
In this story about da Vinci's Mona Lisa, life and art gradually merge seamlessly. To reveal details of the plot would diminish its shocking -- but satisfying -- surprises. It is not the plot alone that charms, however, but the form. Arenas uses Borgesian devices such as invented translators and editors who comment on the text, undermining the narrator's authority and casting doubt on his fantastic tale.
Arenas combines his attachment to Cuba with magic realism in the final story, End of a Story. A Cuban immigrant, standing at the southernmost point on Key West, recounts a visit to New York with a friend, a new arrival. From the top of the Empire State Building, they look down on the city:
I leaned over. I saw the Hudson River widening, extending out of sight. The Hudson, I said, how huge! What an idiot! you said, and kept staring: the blue ocean was breaking against the Malecón. In spite of the height, you felt the crashing of the waves and the incomparable freshness of the sea breeze. This consciousness, divided between America and Cuba, meant that, in his words, Arenas led "double and even triple lives at the same time." A child of the "joyous sixties," he saw his dreams for a world without prejudice dashed in Cuba and abroad. Instead, speaking for his generation in 1988, he claimed, "We live on fury, indignation, rage, alienation, and the desperation of trying to hold on to a world that exists only in our hopes. We are nourished by the memory of an ocean at sunset, of a unique book that understands us, read in a park under a tree, of the scent exuded by our houseplants when we come into a home that no longer exists."
This ghostly existence, a fusion of exuberance and rage, speaks to us in his stories.
Suzanne Ferriss teaches literature at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Jaime Manrique
*read for DIVA TV an excerpt from his memoir
"A Sadness As Deep As The Sea" in EMINENT MARICONES
about the last days of the Cuban-born Reinaldo Arenas


"This plague -- AIDS -- is but a symptom of the sickness in our age."

Transcript:
Reinaldo lived on 44th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. He had visited my apartment many times yet had never invited me into his home. So when Thomas Colchie phoned in December 1990 and asked me to check on Reinaldo, I thought I'd better get in touch with him right away. Too many friends had died before we had a chance to say things we wanted to say. I called him, and we made plans for me to stop by late that afternoon.
I climbed the steps of Reinaldo's building and rang his buzzer. The building was a walk-up, and Reinaldo's apartment was on the top floor, the sixth. At the top of the steep stairs I knocked on his door. I heard what sounded like a long fumbling with locks and chains, which even in Times Square seemed excessive. The door opened, and I almost gasped. Reinaldo's attractive features were hideously deformed: half his face looked swollen, purple, almost charred, as if it were about to fall off. He was in pajamas and slippers. I can't remember whether we shook hands or not or what we said at that moment. All I remember is that, once I was inside the apartment, he started putting on the chains and locks, as if he were afraid someone was going to break down the door.
We went through the kitchen into a small living room. Besides an old-fashioned sound system and a television set, I remember a primitive painting of the Cuban countryside. A table, two chairs, and a worn-out sofa completed the decor. Reinaldo sat on the sofa and I took a chair. I felt that if I sat too close to him, I would not be able to look him in the eye. Stacks of manuscripts lay on the table--thousands and thousands of sheets, and Reinaldo seemed like a shipwreck disappearing in a sea of paper. When I asked if they were copies of a manuscript he had just finished, he informed me that the three manuscripts on the table were a novel, a book of poems, and his autobiography, Before Night Falls.
Reinaldo spoke with enormous difficulty, his voice a frail rasp. "The novel, El color del verano, concludes my Pentagony. It's an irreverent book that makes fun of everything," he mused. "Leprosorio is a volume of poems. And Antes que anochezca," he pointed to the third pile, "is my autobiography. I dictated it into a tape recorder and an amanuensis transcribed it. It's going to make a lot of people mad."
It seemed to me absolutely protean the amount of writing he had managed to do, considering what a debilitating disease AIDS is. I said so.
"Writing those books kept me alive," he whispered. "Especially the autobiography. I didn't want to die until I had put the final touches. It's my revenge." He explained, "I have a sarcoma in my throat. It makes it hard for me to swallow solid foods or to speak. It's very painful."
"Then maybe you shouldn't talk. I'll do the talking," I offered, moving to the sofa.
"But I want to talk," he said curtly. "I need to talk."
I said, "Reinaldo, if there is anything you need, please don't hesitate to let me know. Whatever it is...cooking your meals, getting your medicines, going with you to the doctor, anything." I mentioned the the PEN American Center had a fund for writers and editors with AIDS and offered to contact them.
"Thanks so much, cariño," he said in the plaintive singsong in which he spoke. It was a sweet, caressing tone: melodious like a lazy samba but also mournful, weary, accepting of the hardships of life. This was a typically peasant trait. "There is a woman who comes to help three days a week. She does all my errands. Besides, Lazaro [Lazaro Carriles, his ex-lover who had remained his closest friend] comes by every day."
Just in case he wasn't aware, I mentioned other sources where he could go for help.
He snapped, "I don't like those men who serve as volunteer. I can't stand all that humility."
From where I sat I could see a bleached wintry sunset over the Hudson.
"But if you contact the PEN Club that would be good," he conceded. "I would like to get away from here before winter comes. My dream is to go to Puerto Rico and get a place at the beach so I can die by the sea."
To encourage him, I said, "Perhaps your health will improve. People sometimes..."
"Jaime," he cut me off, "I want to die. I don't want my health to improve...and then deteriorate again. I've been through too many hospitalizations already. After I was diagnosed with PCP [AIDS pneumonia], I asked Saint Virgilio Piñera," he said, referring to the deceased homosexual Cuban writer, " to give me three years to live so that I could complete my body of work." Reinaldo smiled, and his monstrous face showed some of his former handsomeness. "Saint Virilio granted me my request. I'm happy. I do wish, though, that I had lived to see Fidel kicked out of Cuba, but I guess it won't happen during my lifetime. Soon, I hope, his tyranny will end. I feel certain of that."
I knew better than to disagree with him when it came to discussing Fidel Castro. Once, in the mid-eighties, I had tried to tell him to put behind him his years of imprisonment and persecution, to forget Cuba, to accept this county as his new home and to live in the present. "You just don't understand, do you?" he had shouted, shaking with anger. "I feel like one of those Jews who were branded with a number by the Nazis; like a concentration camp survivor. There is no way on earth I can forget what I went through. It's my duty to remember. This," he roared, hitting his chest, "will not be over until Castro is dead. Or I am dead."
We talked for a while about the collapse of the communist states. The last thing I wanted was to upset him in any way, yet I had to defend my belief in socialism as the most humanistic form of government. So I spoke to that effect.
"On paper socialism is the ideal form of government," he said, not altogether surprising me. "It's just that it's never worked anywhere. Perhaps some day." Becoming thoughtful, almost as if talking to himself, he added, "Jaime, what a life I've had. Even before the revolution, it was bad enough the agony of being an intellectual queen in Cuba. What a sad an hypocritical world that was," he paused. "Finally, I leave that hell, and come here full of hopes. And this turns out to be another hell; the worship of money is as bad as the worst in Cuba. All these years, I've felt Manhattan was just another island-jail. A bigger jail with more distractions but a jail nonetheless. It just goes to show that there are more than two hells. I left one kind of hell behind and fell into another kind. I never thought I would live to see us plunge again into the dark ages. This plague -- AIDS -- is but a symptom of the sickness of our age."
As night fell, the neon of the billboards of midtown Manhattan and the lights of the skyscrapers provided the only illumination. We chatted in hushed tones, more intimately than we ever had before. I was aware of how precious the moment was to me, how I wanted to engrave it forever in my memory. When I got up to leave, Reinaldo had difficulty finding his slippers in the darkness, so I knelt on the floor and put them on his calloused, swollen, plum-colored feet. We went again through the kitchen, where he mentioned he would have broiled fish for dinner. Then he unchained the numerous locks, slowly, one by one. We didn't hug or shake hands as we parted -- as if neither of those gestures was appropriate.
"Call me any time, if you need anything," I said.
"You're such a dear," he said.
As I was about to take the first step down, I turned around. The door to the apartment was still open. In the rectangular darkness Reinaldo's shadowy shape was like a ghost who couldn't make up its mind whether to materialize or to vanish.
The following day Reinaldo called to ask me if I could get him some grass. He said he had heard it helped to control nausea after meals. I told him that I would try to get some. I called a couple of friends and mentioned Reinaldo's request. Bill Sullivan suggested that I contact the Gay Men's Health Crisis because he thought Reinaldo sounded suicidal. I dismissed this possiblilty. Because his wish was to die by the sea, I thought he would try to make it to Puerto Rico if he received the grant from PEN. The next day, around noon, Tom Colchie called to say the Reinaldo had taken his life the night before; that he had used pills and had washed them down with shots of Chivas Regal; that he had left letters -- one of them for the police, clarifying the circumstances of his death -- and another one for the Cuban exiles, urging them to continue their fight against Castro's rule. Reinaldo had died in the early hours of December 7, and his body had been found by the woman who came by to help with his chores. He was forty-seven.

1 comentario:

  1. En la fecha de hoy siete de diciembre, estamos conmemorando el décimo noveno aniversario luctuoso de Reinaldo Arenas. Un día como hoy, pero del año 1990, cometió suicidio en su humilde apartamento en New York. Después de hurgar en esto que llaman la Red-- neologismos de la modernidad-- encontré esta magnífica reseña de su vida y obra literaria, que hiciera hace ya un tiempo el magnífico blog alocubano.com y lo he subido a mi blog reconociendo, por supuesto su autoría al mencionado blog, el cual recomiendo a todos mis amables lectores. Este es a mi manera, muy personal, un sencillo y humilde tributo a nuestro inolvidable Rey.
    Gracias.
    René Dayre Abella

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