Cuban poet, playwright Arrufat dies at 87

Cuban poet and playwright Anton Arrufat, a renowned and multifaceted writer who won his country’s top literature prize, has died at age 87, the culture ministry announced Sunday. Born in Santiago de Cuba, Arrufat, also a member of the Cuban Academy of Language, as a youth was keen on literature and theatre and then studied languages at the University of Havana. “Sad news for Cuba: the great poet, storyteller and playwright Anton Arrufat, National Literature Award (2000) has passed away,” the culture ministry said. No cause of death was given. Author of numerous plays, novels, essays and poems, Arrufat won the literary award from the official Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba in 1968 for “Seven Against Thebes,” an allegory of the island’s political life of the time, currently considered a fundamental work of Cuban theater.

But as a gay man he then fell out of favor due to the institutional rejection generated by this work, which was branded as counterrevolutionary and did not reach a stage in Cuba until 2007. At the end of the 1960s and part of the 1970s, during a five-year time known on the island as the “Grey Period,” authorities established that the moral parameters for a reliable worker were to be revolutionary and heterosexual — two things that Arrufat was not. “Yes, (I was) ‘parameterized’ (sidelined), that is the word that was used” and “I never was told why,” Arrufat said in an interview with AFP in September 2022, shortly before Cuba approved a new Code of the Families that gave the green light to equal marriage rights.

The writer, who was held for 14 years in the basement of a municipal library, unable to publish any text, then evoked that grey period that ostracized Cuban intellectuals, when the Soviet model was temporarily imposed on Cuba, the only one-party Communist state in the Americas. “I had to suffer through things that a writer in this country had not experienced,” added Arrufat.

He also recalled in the interview his adventures with great Cuban writers, also noted for their homosexuality, such as Jose Lezama Lima (1910-1976) and Virgilio Pinera (1912-1979), who died in isolation without seeing their texts in bookstores and theaters again. — AFP

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