Lázaro Gómez Carriles, a Cuban-born artist and writer, graduated from the University of Havana with a degree in philosophy and letters. In 1980 he fled Cuba along with his mentor, Reinaldo Arenas. In 2000, Arenas’s memoirs became the subject of a film, Before Night Falls, cowritten by Carriles and artist Julian Schnabel, the film’s director. Carriles is the founder of the Membranofonismo movement, which explores the synthesis of sound and vision.
Reinaldo Arenas, one of the best known and most admired Cuban writers in the Spanish-speaking world, was born in the rural Oriente province of Cuba between Holguin and Gibara, on July 16, 1943. In 1961 he moved to Havana, where he studied philosophy and literature at the University of Havana and fought with Castro’s rebels before gradually becoming disillusioned with the revolution.
In 1970, he was sentenced to spend a year at a forced-labor camp under the Castro regime. While there, a friend smuggled in 87 “clean white pages,” on which he wrote his renowned furious prose poem of denunciation, A Cuban Sugar Mill. He was persecuted by Castro’s regime because of his homosexuality and his resistance to social realism and was imprisoned several times, including two years at the El Morro prison from 1974-76. His work suppressed, Arenas nonetheless continued to write. As he said, “I now have an eager, even voracious audience—State Security.” His work was eventually smuggled to the outside world and began to circulate in French and Spanish in the late ’70s.
In August 1980, Arenas left Cuba for New York. The recipient of a Cintas and a Guggenheim Fellowship, he is the author of ten novels, including Farewell to the Sea, Hallucinations, and The Graveyard of the Angels. He also published numerous books of short stories and poetry, and a memoir, Before Night Falls. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.