Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Translator


I was lucky to receive a copy of The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. I requested this book because I felt uneducated about the situation in Darfur and hoped this book would rectify that. It did.

Daoud Hari is a young man from a small village in Darfur who has already had a lifetime's worth of experiences. In The Translator he writes about his youth and about traditional tribesman life. Hari spend some time away from Darfur as a young man trying to earn money, eventually winding up in a prison in Egypt. Hari returns to his homeland to see his family and to help them escape from the fighting. I will not try to explain the complicated situation, but essentially the government of Sudan wants to get rid of the indigenous people of Darfur and is systematically killing them. Hari winds up in Chad, where the refugee camps are. Although it is illegal for him to do so, Hari offers himself as a translator to western journalists since he speaks English. Hari describes several trips that he makes back into Darfur and the many frightening times that ensued. Around a third of the book deals with Hari's journey into Darfur with journalist Paul Salopek, a writer for National Geographic. Hari, Salopek and their driver were captured and thought to be spies. Over the course of many weeks they are tortured, sleep deprived, left without food and shuttled from prison to prison. I won't give anything away by telling you there was a good outcome; Hari was subsequently able to write this book. I was excited to see Paul Salopek's article about the situation in the April 2008 edition of National Geographic. It was interesting to read his side of the story as well as view photographs of the region.

Hari was written a powerful book in simple language. He has an amazingly positive outlook despite having been through hell. Hari writes in his acknowledgements that the situation in Darfur has not improved and there is no point in doing new stories unless people act. A very good point indeed.

The only thing that would have improved this book, in my opinion, is a map of the affected area. I have an advanced copy so perhaps there is one in the finished book.

10 comments:

Lesley said...

I'm glad to know this one is such a great read. I am woefully uneducated about the events in Darfur as well, so I think I will pick this one up sooner rather than later.

Maw Books said...

I have this book on hold at the library and am looking forward to it. This is one that I'm not sure I would have discovered if not for bloggers giving it such a high recommendation.

Danielle said...

I need to read more about this area, too. It sounds very timely. I agree--maps are great (and photos too when appropriate) with NF books! Glad you're back to posting again!

Literary Feline said...

It is such a powerful book, isn't it?

Tara said...

Lesley, I found it to be a great education. I'm glad I have a better understanding of the situation now.

Maw Books, thanks for stopping by. I hope you find the book worthwhile.

Danielle, I love maps and especially photos with nonfiction. Helps me understand everything so much more.

Tara said...

Literary Feline, Absolutely!

Megan said...

That's a great point about the map. This book definitely went a long way toward educating me about the situation in Darfur, but I was definitely a little hampered by my geographic ignorance (especially when it comes to Africa). I spent half the book being a little confused over something so basic as whether Chad was to the east or the west of Sudan (somehow I just never could nail down those African countries even after all those high school geography quizzes) - after actually giving it some thought I figured it out - but yeah, a map would be a nice complement to this excellent book.

Lisa said...

Tara, I also received this from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. I also am not all that educated regarding the crisis in Darfur. I was horrified by the situation Hari describes. It is simply not fathomable to me that the world is sitting by and watching this happen. I agree a map would have been helpful. I always appreciate maps and other appendices for clarification, especially for nonfiction books.

Simran said...

This sounds like a refreshingly different book. Reminds me of the movie Blood Diamond for some reason. But i havent read an innovative book since The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis or the Lord of the Rings by Tolkien and this promises to be just that-different and adventurous and also sad and pitiable. By the way, for all lovers of fantasy books, Disney and Walden are coming up with the latest Narnia movie-Prince Caspian, this May 16th. It promises to be awesome by the looks of the trailer. Watch the trailor here- http://www.disney.in/narnia and dont miss it! See if u like the books better or the movie.

Tara said...

Megan, I know what you mean about being confused. I finally had to consult a map myself.

Lisa, I know. It is just overwhelming sometimes how much injustice there is in the world and how little there is being done about it.