(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Reinaldo Arenas’ commitment to resist and denounce Cuba’s indoctrination practices is evident in his short novel Arturo, the Most Brilliant Star. This work is also significant in that Arenas links his political views on the Cuban Revolution with his increasing interest in gay characters. The plot was inspired by a series of police raids against homosexuals in Havana in the early 1960’s. The process was simple: The police picked up thousands of men, usually young men, and denounced them as homosexuals on the grounds of their wearing certain pieces of clothing commonly considered to be the garb of gay men. Those arrested had to work and undergo ideological training in labor camps.

Arturo is one of the thousands of gay men forced into a work camp. He becomes a fictional eyewitness of the rampant use of violence as a form of punishment. The novel’s descriptions of the violence coincide with eyewitness accounts by gay men who have made similar declarations after their exile from Cuba.

Arturo faces the fact that a labor camp foments homosexual activity between the prisoners and the guards. A dreary and claustrophobic existence prompts some men to do female impersonations. If caught, those impersonators become a target of police brutality. Arturo, a social outcast, suffers rejection by his fellow prisoners because initially he does not take part in the female impersonations. Partly as the result of verbal and physical abuse, he joins...

(The entire section is 461 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Schwartz, Kessel. “Homosexuality and the Fiction of Reinaldo Arenas.” Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 5, nos. 1-2 (1984): 12-20.