FAREWELL TO THE SEA (1986). A novel by Cuban author Reinaldo
Arenas (1943–1990), who was exiled to the United States in 1980 as part
of the Mariel boat lift, Farewell to the Sea was written in Cuba and first
published in Spain as Otra Vez el Mar (1982), meaning “once more the
sea.” The novel, a vivid representation of Arenas’ bitterness over the Castro
regime’s restriction of free expression and repression of homosexuality, details the brief seaside vacation of a young married couple. The first half is
told from the perspective of the wife, who watches with quiet desperation
as her secretly homosexual husband begins a sexual liaison with a young boy
vacationing in a neighboring beach house. The novel then switches to the
perspective of the husband, a disillusioned supporter of Castro’s revolution
and a writer whose voice has been stymied by his policies. The novel’s emphasis is not on plot events but rather on the turmoil of the couple’s inner lives, represented by an experimental and at times chaotic narrative style that
alternates between stream of consciousness, flashback, surrealistic hallucination, and poetry.
The sea is a constant in the characters’ lives and a witness to their desperation and entrapment. It is invested with an almost overwhelming metaphorical weight, suggesting, at times, oblivion and forgetfulness, escape
from the drudgery of everyday life, an infiniteness associated with a sense of
cosmic indifference to the lives of Cubans, the dissolution of physical and
psychic boundaries, the unrealizable possibility of escape from Cuba, and
the uncontrollable force of repressed desire.