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Reading: “Strategic Rebellions: Reinaldo Arenas Has the Last Word.”


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“Strategic Rebellions: Reinaldo Arenas Has the Last Word.”


Enrique Del Risco,

Stacey Van Dahm


Reinaldo Arenas has become one of the most well-known Cuban authors in the world. His novels seduce readers with a surprising blend of sensuality, satire, and hyperbole, and they will continue to signal to readers the redemptive power of beauty well beyond the ebb and flow of academic arguments about the author’s importance to various literary canons. But his work is also compelling because as a Cuban exile in the U.S. during the Cold War period, Arenas landed within the sticky web of nationalist (Cuban and U.S.) discourses of the day. I was drawn to Arenas for both his literary valor and the possibility his perspective offered for critiquing U.S. nationalism. Like Kate Mehuron and Benigno Sánchez-Eppler and others, I found promise in Arenas’ transnational positionality as he mobilized and negotiated Cuban and U.S. discourses around gender, sexuality, and belonging. It is in this context of looking not just at Arenas’ writing, but also at the social and national discourses with which he had to contend in the 1980s, that Enrique Del Risco’s 2003 essay,here translated as, “Strategic Rebellions: Reinaldo Arenas Has the Last Word,” conspicuously addresses the academic discourses and pressures that also impinged on Arenas. Del Risco argues that the multicultural discourses prevalent in the academy of the period appropriated Arenas as a victim, allotting him recognition at the expense of his true voice and a full appreciation of his literature. Thus, even today, Del Risco’s perspective demands that scholars become self-critical in how they read and represent Arenas and other authors, and he cautions other Latin American writers to write from the heart, not for the academy.

How to Cite: Del Risco, E. and Van Dahm, S., 2017. “Strategic Rebellions: Reinaldo Arenas Has the Last Word.”. Latin American Literary Review, 44(87), pp.53–64. DOI:
Published on 26 Apr 2017.
Peer Reviewed


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