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 ‘Reinaldo Arenas’
The way Reinaldo Arenas opened Before Night Falls was extremely effective. The opening sections work well to create a world that is strange yet natural. There was an expansiveness that sets up his ideas of freedom and view of the world with naturalness and innocence. This expansiveness contrasted starkly with his later life in prison and beyond. Early on he stated: “I think the splendor of my childhood was unique because it was absolute poverty but also absolute freedom; out in the open, surrounded by trees, animals, apparitions, and people who were indifferent toward me” (5).