Reinaldo Arenas: The Pentagonia

Reinaldo Arenas: The Pentagonia

Reinaldo Arenas: The Pentagonia

Reinaldo Arenas: The Pentagonia


Reinaldo Arenas is considered one of the most important Cuban writers of recent decades. His most ambitious project was a pentalogy on Cuban history, a magnificent literary legacy that he worked on intermittently from the time he was eighteen. Three of the novels are available in English, and the last two (completed shortly before his suicide in 1990 and published in their original Spanish one year later) will be available in English shortly.

Arenas described these five books as both a writer's autobiography and a metaphor of Cuban history. Francisco Soto's study, the first to examine the quintet in its entirety and in English, considers the five-book sequence in the context of Cuba's state-sanctioned tradition that promotes documentary novels of immediate and practical utility.

Soto argues that Arenas subverted that tradition, insisting that the writer's voice must be a call for freedom, challenging both literary and social establishments. Arenas's criticism of the Cuban Revolution was more than an attack against communism, Soto says; it was an angry cry against injustice and against a system that persecuted him simply for being homosexual. The characters of the pentalogy--"dissidents, 'extravagants,' dreamers, freethinkers, homosexuals"--represent marginal persectives that Arenas believed should be given a voice in documentary novels but were not.

The appendix contains a conversation (translated into English) between Soto and Arenas that took place in 1987--revised and expanded by Arenas shortly before his death--in which the novelist talks at length about the pentalogy and its genesis.


Escribir esta pentagonía, que aún no sé si terminaré, me ha tomado realmente muchos años, pero también le ha dado un sentido fundamental a mi vida que ya termina. (Writing this pentalogy, which I still don't know if I'll complete, has in fact taken me many years, but it has also given a fundamental meaning to my life, which now ends.)

Reinaldo Arenas, El color del verano

Immediately after the publication of his second novel, El mundo alucinante (1969), Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990) began to receive critical attention as one of Latin America's most innovative and promising literary voices. the success of this novel, hailed by Latin American as well as European critics for its intelligence and wit, catapulted this young Cuban writer to international status. Long available in Europe in translation (French, German, Portuguese, and Italian), over the past several years Arenas's work has also become available in English, making him accessible to an even larger reading audience. Yet despite the overall agreement by Latin American scholars of the importance of Arenas's work within contemporary Latin American letters, surprisingly only five book- length studies in Spanish have been written concerning his work. Apart from some book reviews, short articles, and notes, few attempts have been made in English to study Arenas's texts. My study contributes to fulfilling the need for more serious textual evaluations and analyses of Arenas's work, especially in light of his recent death. Because of this book's accessibility to the non-Spanish speaker, it also encourages the study of Arenas's work by a wider range of scholars, thus giving this gifted writer deserved recognition in international letters as a noteworthy creator contemporary literature.

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