I was delighted to win a copy of this book as part of the LGBT Reading Challenge. I saw the film of Before Night Falls a few years back and was interested to read the book.
This is a memoir of a gay Cuban writer, who suffered badly under Castro's oppression of intellectuals and gays. Arenas describes in great detail the hardships he suffered in prison and the oppressive and invasive surveillance by the secret services. The conditions in the prisons were appalling, though the sense of community between some of the prisoners does shine through.
He also describes very well the community of writers in Cuba and how they met together to support each other, but how they never knew who would turn out to be a secret agent in disguise and suddenly denounce all his friends to the authorities.
He also describes his sex life in great detail, by half way through the book he claims to have at that age, slept with over 5 ooo men. The endless descriptions of sexual liasions actually becomes pretty tedious after a while.
This is only the third book I've read by a Cuban author, but they all have one thing in common. Everyone has sex. All the time. With as many people as they possibly can. And although gays have been badly oppressed in Cuba, it doesn't seem to stop a very vibrant underground gay scene from thriving.
Reinaldo Arenas left Cuba in 1980 and settled in New York, where he died of AIDS related illnesses in 1990.
Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas published by Serpent's Tail
Wikipedia entry on LGBT Rights in Cuba