Ceremony, a novel about Latin American elites

In his recent novel, Ceremonia (Planeta, 2022), the Colombian writer and journalist who lives in Mexico, Felipe Restrepo Pombo, offers a portrait of the elites in Latin America through the life of a family that could well be Colombian, Mexican , Peruvian or any country in the region. In his story, the writer decided to omit the nationality of his characters to present a context of regional idiosyncrasy, convinced that there are comparable social class traits and paradoxes in the region.

In his book, Restrepo Pombo works on relationships and intergenerational family conflicts and their conditioning in the face of the desire for social status within the Latin American upper classes.

The writer has highlighted that the construction of Ceremony derives from a deep journalistic investigation, but it is coated with those licenses that only fiction allows: the approaches to the psychology of its characters and the most intimate part of family relationships, without falling into the parody or caricature, but it does serve as a peephole into the “needs” assumed by the elites to participate in the “ceremony” of social roles and the construction of status for public complacency. Hence the title of the work.

To do this, the author divides the novel into five parts and in each one he involves his characters in a different set of protocols or social ceremony, be it political, religious or new spiritualities and even sexuality, with archetypes such as the patriarch of a elite family, a woman who, by imposition of status, is linked to a man she does not want; a young man who in order to exercise his sexuality must lead a double life, among others.

A story about any country in the region

In an interview, the author points out that “in Ceremony I took great care that the action was not focused on a specific country, in fact, the name of the country is never mentioned. I tried to make it a universal Latin American story that any reader from our countries could recognize. It is not a story about Colombia or Mexico, but a novel that seeks the universal idea of ​​what an elite understands and conditions. Obviously, each country has its particularities in culture and idiosyncrasies, but there are issues that come together, that divide us socially, but equalize us as a region”.

Talking about the elites in Latin America, he points out, “it seemed very pertinent to me at this moment. Throughout the region, these chasms are very latent, which are widening more and more between social classes, between rich and poor. This is being seen in many countries that are electing leftist governments precisely as a response to these strong social gaps”.

Regarding these gaps in the Latin American classes, the man born in Bogotá details that “one of the characteristics of this portrait is the need to belong and at the same time to be excluded. Something that happens with the characters in the novel is that in their eagerness to belong they have to betray who they are and really have to live that double life. Among the Latin American upper classes there is this desire to be exclusive. But I do not believe that the desire to belong is exclusive to the upper classes, it is a human condition”.

turn left

Colombia and Mexico are two of several countries in the region that share similar historical processes and in recent years have reverted to governments that champion the left.

In the case of Mexico, he believes, “it is very well known that when Andrés Manuel became president there was an expectation of transformation. I don’t like to comment on Mexican politics because I am a foreigner, but for me, as a resident of Mexico, I do notice disappointment in many aspects. I think there is a systematic position of not accepting failures”.

Regarding the government of Gustavo Petro in Colombia, assumed last August, he opines: “he arrived with the same expectation of a government of transformation in a country historically so right-wing, like Colombia, which had never had an openly left-wing, openly populist government , who has promised to change many things. Among these changes, they promise greater equity and obviously I think it’s fantastic, but I’m very skeptical because I think it’s very difficult for a government to keep so many promises, to change the way a society works, and even more so in the particular case of Colombia, a country that It has gone through a long armed conflict, long periods of violence and with many wounds that are still open. It seems difficult for me to achieve it, so I take it very cautiously ”.

And he concludes: “I hope things come true. What else would one wish for our countries to progress and be less unequal, less unfair, where there was access to health, to education. And all of that sounds fantastic on paper, but it’s one thing to say it and another to achieve it.”

“Ceremony”

  • Author: Felipe Restrepo Pombo
  • Editorial: Planet
  • Year: 2022
  • Pages: 272
  • Physical format: 298 pesos
  • Electronic format: 159 pesos

Our interviewee

  • In 2017, Felipe Restrepo Pombo was included in the Hay Festival’s Bogotá39 list, with the 39 best fiction authors under 40 in Latin America, curated by his colleagues Darío Jaramillo (Colombia), Leila Guerriero (Argentina) and Carmen Boullosa (Mexico). The writer is one of the six Colombian pens included in the selection.

ricardo.quiroga@eleconomista.mx

Ceremony, a novel about Latin American elites