El Exilio Interior

El exilio interior - Miguel Salabert It's sad when you find books that deserve readers that can understand the depth of the subject and they don't get them because they're not on the cover of magazines or reviewed in the NYT or made into a movie.

This book deserves it. It genuinely, honestly really does. It's beautifully written, hand crafted into perfection, touching on a ton of subjects like family, war, famine, ethics, friendship, pain, endurance, growing up, education, civil disturbances, anything really. Dystopian in a real way, great detail work, great world and character building, everything.

It's really rare to find such a gem. It's precious to the point of no return. And I'm sure (and sad about it) that few people will read it. It's one of those works that remain burried in the library and once in a generation someone takes it out and then hides it back again.

And I am also sure there have been people that hated this book. Hated it badly. Because if I, who loved it, can still see flaws in it, others blew them up to the size of unforgivable sins by an authors... and tossed the book away. Oh well, screw 'em. It's too subtle for them to understand it.

Now that I have praised the book so much, let's see what's it about.

Written from the point of view of an adult, the book resembles a journal, lacking only in dates and "dear journal, today i have..." lines. It's a story alright but you get the feeling it's also a confession... be it to himself or us, you don't ever get to know.

Ramon begins his life in Spain. The Second World War broke out. His father leaves to fight, so does his uncle. He remains back with his mother, his brother Emilio and his cousin Andrea. Their life is a painful journey, as they are so poor they have to suffer, beg and in the end steal their way into life. Ramon learns, at just 6 years old, what real hunger is. He learns how to fight, after being beaten almost every day, and he slowly shuts down his conscience to everything that's around him. His mother beats him, his brother becomes a thug and doesn't help the family at all and his cousin gets raped and enters this eternal silence of which she refuses to come out. Most importantly... Ramon learns how to shut down his feelings. He becomes this kind of machine that observes everything coolly and stays detached from the rest of the world.

Only one thing saves him - studying. His father was a high school teacher and taught him how education for oneself is the most important gift he can get. So he kept learning. He never gave up on wanting to understand the world, even though at school he was bullied and then kicked out.

Meanwhile, his father was imprisoned for fighting on the wrong side of things, and spent 8 years in prison. Growing up without a masculine figure, the streets become his teacher. He feels alone, is alone and hopes that one day he won't have to suffer so much for what he believes in.

The story is heart breaking.. and heart warming at the same time. It taught me a very important thing: even though there will always be richer people than you, more powerful and better endowed than you will ever be, a poor person has only one luxury to spend: dignity. Even in thaw gutter, you can't take that away, the dignity, the pride of looking down the nose at a richer man and know he is nonetheless lower than you.

I would borrow this book to anyone who'd ask it from me. It's worth spreading around. And it's on top 5 best books I've read in 2013.