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Collection Overview

Arenas, Reinaldo, 1943-1990 (1943-1990)
Reinaldo Arenas Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1959-1990 (mostly 1980-1990)
29 boxes and 20 items
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes 1-28; 13A


The Reinaldo Arenas Papers consists of typescripts and manuscripts of novels and novellas, short stories, plays and screenplays, poetry, nonfiction, correspondence, and miscellaneous and printed material.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of personal and working papers of Reinaldo Arenas. Included is a corrected typescript of his unpublished first novel "Que dura es la vida" (1959). Also included are typescript drafts and some galley and page proofs with holograph corrections of the novels and novellas Arturo, la estrella más brillante, El asalto, El color del verano o nuevo jardín de las delicias, La loma del angel, Lazarillo [de Tormes] (adaptation), Otra vez el mar, El palacio de las blanquísimas mofetas, Viaje a La Habana (Novela en tres viajes); drafts of the short stories collected under Termina el desfile and of the unpublished collection Adios a mamá; drafts for the play Persecución; drafts of the poetry collections El Central, Voluntad de vivir manifestándose, and Leprosorio, and notes and drafts of essays and articles, most of which were published in Necesidad de libertad. Included also is a copy of Arenas's will, dated 6 March 1990, and material about the author, such as interviews, essays and newspaper clippings, as well as a cassette of two songs, the lyrics of which Arenas wrote while hospitalized.

Arenas's correspondence with literary figures, publishers, and academic institutions, covering mainly the period 1980 to 1990, includes letters by Nestor Almendros, Lydia Cabrera, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, the painter Jorge Camacho, Rita Geada, Juan Goytisolo, Enrique Labrador Ruiz, Helen Lane, Octavio Paz, Margaret Sayers Peden, Manuel Puig, Angel Rama, Emir Rodríguez Monegal, and Severo Sarduy.

Collection Creator Biography:

Arenas, Reinaldo, 1943-1990

Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990) was a Cuban poet, novelist, and playwright.

He was born in the Oriente province of Cuba, near the city of Holguín on July 16, 1943. As a teenager Arenas joined the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959. In 1962, he moved to Havana to enroll in the School of Planification and, later, in the Faculty of Letters at the University of Havana, where he studied philosophy and literature without completing a degree. The following year, he began working at the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí and continued to work there until 1967. During this time he wrote a number of short stories and the novel Celestino antes del alba, which won a First Mention Award at the Cirilo Villaverde National Competition in 1965 and was published by UNEAC (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists) in 1967. Celestino antes del alba was the only novel Arenas wrote and published in Cuba. From 1966 to 1970 Arenas discreetly worked on Otra vez el mar a following title to Arenas' Pentagonia series. He gave the manuscript to Aurelio Cortés for safekeeping though the latter destroyed the manuscript. There are differing accounts of how the manuscript was destroyed and why. Arenas went on to re-write Otra vez el mar two other times before publishing it in 1987. From 1968 to 1974 he was a journalist and editor for the literary magazine La Gaceta de Cuba.

Arenas grew critical of Castro's government and was imprisoned for his writings and open homosexuality. In 1973, he was sent to prison after being charged and convicted for "ideological deviation" and for publishing his writings abroad without official consent. After escaping from prison he attempted to leave Cuba by launching himself to shore on a tire inner tube. He was caught and imprisoned at the infamous El Morro Castle and released in 1976. In 1980, as part of the mass emigration of Cubans during Mariel Boatlift, he was exiled in the United States. He took permanent residence in New York City and was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987. He continued to write and speak out against the Castro government for the remainder of his life. After battling AIDS, Arenas died of an intentional overdose of drugs and alcohol on December 7, 1990.

Collection History


The Papers were purchased from the author beginning in 1982 .


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Rodolfo G. Aiello in 2001. Finding aid written by Rodolfo G. Aiello in 2001.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished manuscripts may not be photocopied, with the exception of the following: 'Castro entre el plebiscito y la pared'; 'La dignidad de Guillermo Hernández'; 'Los eternos prisioneros de Castro'; 'La Feria del Libro de Madrid'; 'Guillén el Malo'; 'Hacia una caricatura del barroco'; 'Hágase también usted un hombre nuevo'; 'La hora de la verdad'; 'Literatura cubana dentro y fuera de Cuba'; 'Literatura y libertad'; 'El NY Times tiene cien años de retraso'; 'No al diálogo'; 'No hay paz para el Nobel'; 'La noche oscura del alma'; 'Oración'; 'La otra historia de Mayta'; 'Los paraísos inhabitables'; 'La Perestroika'; 'Al resplandor del infierno'; '¿Rusia hacia el capitalismo?'; 'Vargas Llosa, Presidente.' Copies of correspondence and color photographs of Rene Cifuentes are not permitted. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Reinaldo Arenas Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes 1-28; 13A