Selbie Salonga


In his essay, “Reinaldo Arenas, Re-writer Revenant, and the Repatriation of Cuban Homoerotic Desire,” Benigno Sánchez-Eppler puts forth what he terms a “signifying possibility,” an informative yet nondefinitive explanation of what the exiled queer Cuban novelist Reinaldo Arenas meant in his suicide note. Arenas’ suicide note, which served as the conclusion to his autobiography, Before Night Falls: A Memoir, written in 1990 and published posthumously in 1992, has an inconclusive meaning stemming from the novelist’s brief declaration of his own freedom at the end. After encouraging the Cuban people to remain vigilant in their fight for freedom and against the rule of Fidel Castro, Arenas succinctly yet confidently declares that he himself is already free without suggesting the source of his freedom. Citing various works of the novelist, Sánchez-Eppler argues that this individual freedom originates from the exiled novelist’s literary act of self-repatriation, using suicide as an inspired form of return to his homeland. This essay argues against Sánchez-Eppler’s signifying possibility. As expressed in his suicide note, Arenas’ notion of freedom, far from being a literary monumentalization of the writer and his Cuban queerness, destined to be creatively repatriated back to his native Cuba through the vehicle of suicide, is more an example of a successful Lacanian “end-of-analysis,” when the individual subject comes to terms with and accepts his or her own irredeemably divided self in the present. My own “signifying possibility” for interpreting Reinaldo Arenas’ freedom relies on Lacanian psychoanalysis, as interpreted by critical race and Lacanian theorist Antonio Viego in his book, Dead Subjects: Toward A Politics of Loss in Latino Studies.