February 15, 2008 archive

The Translator: A Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur – Book Review

It says everything about this land to know that even the mountains are not to be trusted, and that the crunching sound under your camel’s hooves are usually human bones, hidden and revealed as the wind pleases. -From The Translator, page 20-

Daoud Hari’s memoir about the genocide occurring in Darfur is beautifully and simply wrought, and so powerful I found myself choking back tears. Hari decided to write his memoir, focusing on his years as a translator for Western news organizations, because he  knows ‘most people want others to have good lives, and, when they understand the situation, they will do what they can to steer the world back toward kindness.

Daoud Hari grew up in Darfur – and shows the reader his happy childhood, his close extended family, and the beautiful social network of his people. He then brings the reader up to the present day, where roving packs of Sudanese government supported rebels and militia groups systematically burn villages, rape women and children, and torture and kill tribesmen and their families who are only trying to eek out a simple existence in desert valleys. Hari reveals the thousands of displaced people living in camps without adequate water or food – places where women and children are forced to risk daily rapes as the price of wood for their fires. The stories contained in this slim memoir are horrifying and graphic – stories which once read would simply refuse to leave my consciousness.

The Translator is required reading for those who care about the people of the world. As Hari points out, if we continue to allow genocide to occur in Darfur, we risk it happening in other places as well. For Hari, it is simple: speak out, put pressure on our government and the people positioned to make a difference. Our voices, as Hari’s voice, can make a difference.

For those readers unfamiliar with the political situation in Darfur which has led to the massacre of thousands of indigenous Africans, Hari provides an appendix which helps put the crisis in historical perspective. The situation in Darfur is complex and not easily understood…Hari helps to simplify it.

The Translator is a disturbing and powerful book. It is not a book which I can read, set aside and forget about.

Highly recommended for its lyrical, yet simple prose and its tremendous social significance.

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