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Old Child - Renaldo Arenas

I met Renaldo Arenas and his poetry through a Julian Schnabel film. Master storyteller and innovative biographer Schnabel uses Arenas’s memoirs Before Night Falls, to tell the story of a man who lived by his ideals, and sought to insert his life into the widening cracks of a post-revolution Cuba. His writings and openly homosexual existence did not sit well with communist government and he was imprisoned, and subsequently punished for attempt to smuggle his writings out of prison. After being released, he fled abroad and even mentored other Cuban exile poets in the United states.

Schnabel explains why he felt it was important to tell Arenas's story through film: "I think he speaks for many. I think it's a voice for many Cubans whom we haven't heard, an outrageous voice full of humor that has turned suffering into great beauty. Out of a life of difficulty came one of the most talented voices of Latin America." - from

In an interview with Ann Tashi Slater, he talks of the writer’s role in a un free world-

“But regardless, if someone is a true writer—not an opportunist who wants to be in favor with the government of the day—that person is always going to be for freedom. Because the simple truth is that without freedom, the writer cannot exist. And the writer who is for freedom is, by definition, not for any totalitarian system. So the duty of the writer is to write well and champion freedom. And he champions freedom because he has an obligation—what better obligation than this?”

If Arenas was in India today, he would have been out on the streets reading his poetry at protests. Or would he be languishing in jail? IIT Kanpur has set up a panel to decide whether Faiz’s masterpiece is “anti-Hindu”.

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