“Mine is not an obedient writing. I think that literature as any art has to be irreverent.” – Reinaldo Arenas
Rarely do I post a piece that is close to me but once in a while I do.
I am watching one of my favorite movies: Academy Award Winning Foreign Film, Before Night Falls starring Javier Bardem with Johnny Depp, Olivier Martinez, and Diego Luna. The story of Cuban poet Reynaldo Arenas during the rise of Fidel Castro and everything that happened to the beautiful art and freedom that once flourished. It is a portrayal of bravery, of intellect, of fear, of desperation. A story that explores how broken one becomes when not allowed to be who they are. Whether it is history banning artists or society fighting equality, the fight is one stemmed in fear and I for one and so so grateful that fear doesn’t live in me. We cannot ever be afraid to be artists and no one should ever apologize for who they are. Unless you are hurting someone, be proud of who you are. The two biggest crimes are those that are crimes against humanity and the crime of being untrue to who you are. To be an artist – it means you will never be seen as “normal” but the world could not survive without you. Life is so undeniably beautiful, it is those that dare to see the world differently that give way to positive change. Reinaldo Arenas lived his entire youth and beginning adulthood hiding who he was. A brilliant writer and poet, he changed the face of creativity and survived more emotional torment than one should ever have to. I watch this film often as a reminder that words are more than letters on a blank page. They are liberation. Power. Strength. Courage.
“With my hand, delicately, I wipe clean her back, her base and her sides. In front of her, I feel desperate and happy. I run my fingers over her keyboard and suddenly it all starts up. With a tinkling sound the music begins, little by little, then faster; now full speed. Walls, trees, streets, cathedrals, faces and beaches. Cells, mini- cells, huge cells. Starry nights, bare feet, pines, clouds. Hundreds, thousands, millions of parrots. A stool, a climbing plant, they all answer my call, all come to me. The walls recede, the roof vanishes, and you float quite naturally. You float uprooted, dragged off, lifted high. Transported, immortalized, saved. Thanks to that subtle, continuous rhythm, that music, that incessant tap-tap.”
Words that will always be the closest to how I feel about writing. A story told through our fingertips. This is why we write. This is why I love film. Below is a clip from the very end of the film that transports you into the visual world of a writer truly meant to spill the words begging to be freed.
Born in Oriente region, Cuba, July 16, 1943 | Died, December 09, 1990
Arenas was born in the countryside, in the northern part of the Province of Oriente, Cuba, and later moved to the city of Holguín. In 1963, he moved to Havana to enroll in the School of Planification and, later, in the Faculty of Letters at the Universidad de La Habana, where he studied philosophy and literature without completing a degree. The following year, he began working at the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí. While there, his talent was noticed and he was awarded prizes at Cirilo Villaverde National Competition held by UNEAC (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). His Hallucinations was awarded “first Honorable Mention” in 1966 although, as the judges could find no better entry, no First Prize was awarded that year.
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