The Assault

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Viking, 1994 - Fiction - 145 pages
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The author of the brilliant and highly acclaimed memoir, Before Night Falls, Reinaldo Arenas concluded his sequence of five novels - at once a "secret history of Cuba" and a writer's autobiography - with an allegorical satire. In The Assault, he paints a harrowing, yet at times boldly entertaining, Kafkaesque picture of a dehumanized people and the despair of an observer/narrator himself clinging to sanity.
This profane narrative, filled with righteous rage, takes us on a surreal journey through a blackly humorous shadowland where philosophical discussion, homosexuality, and forgetting the words to heroic anthems are comparable crimes - and a cockroach hunt makes a national holiday. With echoes of Rabelais, Swift, Orwell, and the films of Lois Bunuel, The Assault crowns the work of one of the most visionary writers to have emerged from Castro's Cuba, a writer whom Octavio Paz called "remarkable... as much for his intellectual dignity as for his talent."

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The assault

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This is the final volume of what the author called his agony in five parts, or pentagony, which begins with Singing in the Well (LJ 7/87). Boatlifted from Cuba in 1980, Arenas settled in New York ... Read full review


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About the author (1994)

The novel The Ill-fated Peregrinations of Fray Servando recreates in a poetic style, in which time, space, and character move on multiple planes of fantasy and reality, the life of Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, a Mexican priest famous for his hatred of the Spaniards. Mier denied even that the Spaniards had brought Christianity to the New World. Arenas begins with a letter to the friar: "Ever since I discovered you in an execrable history of Spanish literature, described as the friar who had traveled over the whole of Europe on foot having improbable adventures; I have tried to find out more about you." In a meditation on the nature of fiction, Arenas discovers that he and Servando are the same person, and author and character become one.

Andrew Hurley is a professor of history at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. Hurley is the author of Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945-1980 and Common Fields: An Environmental History of St. Louis.

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