Monday, December 6, 2010

The Translator: a tribesman’s memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari as told to Dennis Michael Burke and Megan M. McKenna

Hari grew up in a village in Darfur. He was sent to the nearest town to live with relatives and continue his schooling. Although his family wanted him to return and become a camel herder as the other villagers, he decided to travel first. After working in Libya, he went to Egypt and then made the mistake to try to enter Israel, where he heard there were good paying jobs. Hari was caught and landed in an Egyptian prison. With the luck of a kind jailor and friends outside, he was able to get out and travel back to Darfur.

Unfortunately, this was 2003 and the region was in turmoil. He came back to his village only in time to see it being attacked by the paramilitary Janjaweed, used by the Sudanese government to strike terror into the hearts of non-Arab civilians. His brother killed and the village destroyed, Hari makes his way toward Chad, where the refugees are headed. Once there, the atrocities he has witnessed make him want one thing only, to help reporters and other outsiders record the carnage. As he says, “I was feeling mostly dead inside and wanted only to make my remaining days count for something.” He ends up acting as a translator for journalists, risking his life with theirs to document the genocide.

In all the books about Darfur, this book stands out for the depth and warmth Hari conveys through his conversations with the two writers. The writers manage to preserve the sense of Hari’s conviction and purpose, which comes across all the more strongly in contrast to the brutal randomness of the events he describes. His bravery, and the bravery of the journalists he works for, serve as testimony to what such resolve can accomplish.

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