Both Reinaldo Arenas and Quentin Crisp were queer writers in the Twentieth Century who wrote extensively about cultural repression and persecution of gays in their writing. In this essay I will explore how each writer came from disparate backgrounds and experiences, yet both writers shared a common experience that in part defined their lives and writing. Both writers extensively explored their sexuality and identity to produce a rich body of work that helped to define gay experience in the Twentieth Century. Although both writers shared similar ideas about sexuality and its relationship to the larger society, their stories manifest in different ways based on their temperaments and conditions to which they were subjected. Both writers fled existences they considered limited or stifling as youth. Both writers sought to exert their identities as young adults through grand gestures and desperate living. Both faced suppression by the law and imprisonment for who they were, but each writer’s story was uniquely their own. In Arenas’ Before Night Falls and Crisp’s The Naked Civil Servant, each writer documents their life stories and ideas of sexuality against a backdrop of hardship and cultural tension. Arenas started life in rural Cuba, joined the Castro revolution, and finally fell victim to the government’s suppression. Crisp fled what he felt was an oppressively middle class existence to become a gender outlaw in London.
Posts Tagged ‘Quentin Crisp’
In Quentin Crisp’s memoir The Naked Civil Servant, Crisp explored ideas of a constructed identity against the backdrop of British society in the early to late Twentieth Century. Crisp’s writing was reminiscent of much mid-century queer writing in its exploration of the queer as a societal criminal. Crisp’s autobiography gave insight into societal tensions inherent in the time through his anecdotal reflections. His exploits took place at a time when this sort of self-definition of identity and gender were still unimagined. Over the course of his work Crisp charted a path in defiance of the times he lived in. The reader was given insight into the evolving trends of tolerance and disdain for Crisp and what he represented to “polite society”. In this memoir Crisp’s tone was always defiant, self-deprecating, and acerbic.