The Palace of the White Skunks

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Penguin, 1990 - Fiction - 356 pages
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The second novel in the quintet that began with the internationally acclaimed Singing from the Well, Reinaldo Arenas's The Palace of the White Skunks is a brilliant, hallucinatory, and erotically charged portrait of Cuba on the eve of its 1959 revolution. It is the story of Fortunato, a dreamy, sullen boy trapped in a house full of abandoned aunts in a decrepit backwater. Tormented by sexual desires for both men and women, he hears, in his family's quarrels, the crackle of rebel gunfire--a sound that will beckon him into a world as demented as the one he has sworn to escape. Like an inspired collaboration between Marcel Proust and the magic realists, The Palace of the White Skunks is a masterpiece encompassing all the squalor, spectacle, and tragedy of Cuba under two dictators.

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About the author (1990)

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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