Guadalajara, Jal., Daughter of a nomadic family whose childhood went from the knee-deep snow in Copenhagen to the hot party of Havana in the wake of the triumphant revolutionaries, the writer Laura Restrepo (Bogotá, 1950) is confident that Latin America will establishes itself as a vanguard territory with the new geopolitical map of the region, to serve as an alternative in a world whose panorama it sees as almost apocalyptic.
“I, who live in Spain, am glad to be Latin American because our peoples, for better or worse, some more, others not so much, continue to think about the social problem, that poverty must be fought, dignity must be defended. Europe is very touched by the invasion of Ukraine because they feel that their territory has been entered into and I think they are right about that, no people can be invaded, but from there to that kind of heroism of NATO as the great defender of the planet there is a very big jump”, says the Colombian novelist.
Interviewed this Tuesday at the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL), where she has a busy schedule to present her most recent novel Song of the old loverssign books and participate in the tribute to José Saramago and in the panel Writing Far From Home, together with Sergio Ramírez and Gioconda Belli, the writer questions the warmongering effervescence in a continent like Europe, where it seems that they are calling for war “until the death of the last Ukrainian”, instead of seeking a spirit of peace, of exercising dialogue.
“Instead of that, countries are taking the opportunity to arm themselves madly, accepting US policy, knowing what happens in countries that become partners with the United States, how they leave them hanging, falling like bunches from planes, as happened in Afghanistan, and the Ukrainians who are playing with the North American nation are going there. The arms business behind the war… you don’t hear the European media dealing with that.”
A lifelong leftist militant, he says that the hope is that Latin America now has governments with that inclination, that have learned to be pragmatic, although there are still examples of revolutionary perversion, as in Nicaragua.
“It seems to me that what is happening in Latin America goes very contrary to what is happening in the rest of the world, because the right is gaining barbaric force. In Italy, the extreme right is already gaining ground without alarm, no one says that fascism is coming and those who say it are not the official voice. I don’t understand why Joe Biden is fed up, why give him leadership of the world situation after the horrors that the United States has done in Syria, in Afghanistan.”
She is passionate about the subject, as can be seen when she thunders when she points out that “what the United States gets into is a butcher shop and then they leave leaving the rubble. Why does Europe give you the endorsement? It’s the Russian panic, do you really think that Russia is going to invade Europe?
“At this point, I remain convinced that Marxism is a guide for thought and for locating oneself on earth. Not dogmatically, but I still believe in the class struggle, that the analyzes have to start from there, otherwise one begins not to understand.”
Migrations, exile and writers
Restrepo settles into the armchair in the patio for interviews set up by the FIL, he pulls his brown shawl a little, he comes from an interview, he is in another, a reporter waits patiently to be next. The writer is unfazed.
“I think that this desire for war and believing that NATO is going to defend us is actually the fear of the migrations that are coming, the defense is not so much from Vladimir Putin, but because the horde from America is coming. Latin, African. I see that there are differences in treatment between Ukrainian refugees and Latin American refugees, from heaven to earth. There are some displaced people who for the first world are like them and there are others who are not like them”.
“I also believe that exile, voluntary or involuntary, is what marks literature today, at least in Latin America, because rooting in the homeland is no longer what characterizes us, which is a problem on the outside because then they read your things and they no longer seem Latin American: where is the mulata, the hammock, Comala, Macondo? But it is that the diaspora has been enormous, ”she says.
She also talks about women writers, who she assures are at the center of the current literary stage, being “very good, strong, young” and putting the problem of emancipation against patriarchy in the foreground.
“They are hitting the world hard with a bold position and sometimes quite violent language to deal with the pressure of women in literature. There are wonderful writers in Mexico, in Argentina, in Colombia, they are a legion of tremendous fighters, metal warriors”.
He struggles to offer more spaces for voices from the periphery up to now, such as African writers, to open the Nobel Prize not only to what the first world produces, but to set up “our own parameters to also set standards of recognition of this third world ”.
At the end of the interview, Restrepo agrees to talk a bit about what’s to come in his literary career, another novel, of course, after seven years of writing the current one and another year dedicated to promoting it. Although he anticipates that, being slow to write, it will still take “at least two years.”
“I’m working hard on another novel, let’s say I’m going with enthusiasm and research, still thinking about how, but I’m delighted, it has a lot to do with Mexico, I love taking up a Mexican theme, I’m very excited.”
He affirms that it will be a topic of resonance in Mexico but that it also has to do with Spain, with Europe’s relationship with Mexico, “because the literature that unites worlds has also become very frequent.”
“The prophet was Julio Cortázar, who was criticized for writing from the outside, but he was the pioneer that unites us with the rest of the world, writing from the outside with a profoundly Latin American spirit; before him it was César Vallejo, the great Latin American writing from Paris.”
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Laura Restrepo trusts that Latin America is a vanguard territory