The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari
Random House, March 2008
Nonfiction; 200 pgs
Rating: (Very Good +)
First Sentence: I am sure you know how important it can be to get a good phone signal.
Reason for Reading: I was interested in learning more about the current conflict in Darfur. I received this book through the LibraryThing's Early Review Program.
Comments: Last summer as I immersed myself in books, I spent time in Africa. Through books, I lived life as a child soldier in West Africa; I talked with the killers in Rwanda who murdered their own neighbors and friends, ones they played and dined with just days before; I was taken into South Africa and came face to face with Apartheid; and I lived through a vicious war in what now is called Zimbabwe. The torture and slaughtering of a people is nothing new. The horror of such actions remain fresh always.
As far away and unaffected as we Americans may feel, miles away from the death and danger, that distance is not so great. What goes on across the globe does impact us, whether directly or indirectly. As history repeats itself over and over again, we must not fall into the trap of thinking we are immune. We live in this world too. We are all brothers and sisters. Our basic needs are the same. Our hopes and dreams are not far off from each other. The older I get and the more I learn, the more I realize just how connected we all are. Our choices and decisions have consequences that can have a resounding effect all over the world.
Daoud Hari brings his story to the world in hopes that it will make a difference. He wants his story and the story of those in and from Darfur to be heard. For perhaps in the telling, people will listen and take action.
Daoud Hari, a Zaghawa, was born and raised in a village in Darfur. He had a relatively happy childhood, surrounded by family and a close-knit community. Life had been tranquil, full of the usual every day hardships, playing games with friends and cousins, attending school, and visiting neighbors. Suddenly all that changed. The government has been unstable for quite some time; politics, power, and religion, all creating rifts that would soon come to a head, leading to the slaughter of several thousands of people and displacing millions more, in what would later earn the grim title of genocide. This is still taking place today.
The government under the Sudanese President Omar El Bashir used its military might to attack the every day people and manipulated ethnic groups to turn against their friends and neighbors. Arabs who once lived side by side by their African brothers took up arms against them, and the fighting began. Rebel groups that had begun forming over the years of rising conflict, grew in numbers as the violence escalated and innocent people died. The Sudanese government took advantage of the rebel groups, pitting them against each other, making promises of power and money that were empty at best. For women and girls no matter their ages, rape was a given. Death and violence was everywhere. Is everywhere. The Sudanese government continues to engage in such practices, continues to murder and rape the country. And yet the people, those caught in the middle who have become the targets, struggle to live on as best they can. It is because of people like Daoud Hari that their screams and cries are not falling on deaf ears.
In The Translator, Daoud Hari writes about his life in Darfur, his travels into the great Sahara, Israel and his imprisonment in both Israel and Egypt for entering Israel illegally. He also talks about how he came to be a guide and translator for both the genocide investigators and journalists wanting to visit and speak with people in Darfur. He risked his life time and time again, leading the reporters and investigators into war torn Darfur so the truth could get out.
Mr. Hari's voice comes through in his writing. He seems genuine and sincere. There is no pretension. His writing is simple and to the point. He maintains his sense of humor even in the direst of moments--at least in the retelling. What else can you do? You have to cope somehow. There were, and continue to be, so many every day people trapped in between the fighting, some fleeing and others trying to survive and hold onto what they still have.
The author describes the horrors he encounters, individualizes the victims and gives them their own voices. He includes the readers, drawing us in pointing out the similarities, however small: the girl you admire, the loss of a baby. These are all things we all can relate to regardless of our borders. While he is careful with names and locations for the safety of those who remain behind, he does not shy away from talking about the rapes, the torture and the murder. He is not overly graphic in his descriptions, but the reader cannot help but visualize it all. Several times throughout the book, my heart ached and tears welled up in my eyes, mothers and fathers watching their children die.
Daoud Hari's experiences while in Darfur during the war were full of suffering and loss. And yet, he stood his ground and carried on. He had a purpose, always moving forward to help those around him who needed his aid and in helping get the word out about the conditions is which the people of Darfur were forced to contend. He saw the humanity even in those who might cause him the greatest harm. His courage and strength carried him through as much as his friendliness, insight and thoughtfulness.
The Translator is a powerful memoir that needs to be read. It is an important story about the terror that has engulfed Darfur and is spilling over the borders into neighboring countries and regions. Darfur is not the only area that currently is facing such atrocities, and unfortunately it will not likely be the last unless humanity begins to take action and set things right.
Favorite Parts (and on a lighter note): I loved how he described the Sahara desert--beautiful and merciless. It is obvious the author is in awe of this great desert, but then, who wouldn’t be?
The author is a reader! One of his favorite books is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Miscellaneous: I actually marked several quotes in this book that I would like to go back to at a later time. Unfortunately because this is an Advance Readers Copy, I am unable to post them at this time.
It seemed quite timely that just as soon as I finished reading this book, there was an article about Steven Spielberg in relation to Darfur. He has withdrawn as the artistic adviser for the Beijing Olympics in protest of China's failure to take a stance against the Sudanese government. China has close ties with the Sudanese government and is one of the main buyers of Sudanese oil.