Thursday, April 10, 2008
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.