Reinaldo Arenas was born in Oriente, Cuba, on 16th July, 1943. He moved to Havana where he studied at the Faculty of Letters at the Universidad de La Habana, where he studied philosophy and literature but left before completing a degree.
In 1964 he began working at the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí. His novel Hallucinations was published two years later. In 1968 he began work as a journalist for the literary magazine La Gaceta de Cuba.
Arenas open gay lifestyle brought him into conflict with the Cuban government. In 1973, he was sent to prison after being charged and convicted of "ideological deviation" and for publishing abroad without official consent. He escaped from prison but was rearrested and imprisoned at the El Morro Castle. He continued to write but failed in his attempts to smuggle his work out of prison.
Arenas was released from prison in 1976. Four years later he escaped to the United States where he established himself as an important writer with his novels Farewell to the Sea (1987) and Singing from the Well (1987). In 1987, Arenas was diagnosed with AIDS, but he continued to write novels.
Reinaldo Arenas committed suicide by taking an overdose of drugs and alcohol in New York on 7th December 7, 1990.
Other books by Arenas include The Palace of the White Skunks (1990), The Color of Summer (1990), The Doorman (1991), The Assault (1992), Before Night Falls (1993), Old Rosa (1995), and Mono and Other Tales (2001).