In May, 2008, the genocide in Sudan had been in the news media quite frequently. By coincidence, I was fortunate to receive an advance reading copy of this book from LibraryThing Early Readers Program. Now it is nearly September and Darfur has not been in the nightly news for awhile—which is all the more reason to read this noteworthy book, as we should continue to be aware of these events.
My review follows:
If The Translator simply reported firsthand on the situation in Sudan, it would already be an excellent, highly recommended book, but Daoud Hari’s uniquely penetrating, concise eyewitness account puts this book in an even higher category: this is a necessary book. If you read no other book this year, at least read this one; if you read 100 other books, read this one first.
The descriptions of horror can make you weep or retch, yet the book is infused with humanity, dignity, and even humor--a testimony to the worst and best humanity has to offer. Daoud Hari has witnessed utmost cruelties and survived unspeakable crimes, which struck down his family, his village, the region of Darfur, and which continue to corrupt and cripple the nation of Sudan, as its tribal citizens are wiped off the face of the earth or turned into unwelcome refugees.
Overwhelmed by the senseless loss of his brother, the escape of his aged mother into the wilderness to hide, the dangerous roaming of his aged, noble father, the author sought to do something meaningful in the wake of madness that engulfed everyone and everything he knew. Armed with the ability to speak Zaghawa, Arabic, and English, and with intimate knowledge of Darfur’s geography, Hari became useful to aid organizations and journalists. He became determined to help bring to the outside world the stories of those who died, who killed them, how, and why. The courage and humanity of journalists and other individuals who gathered eyewitness accounts of the genocide in Sudan comprise an essential part of his story. He also supplies significant insights into the historic and cultural contexts of the strife in his country.
In a growing field of compelling books on the urgent, deplorable, confusing situation of war and genocide in Sudan, Daoud Hari’s The Translator: A Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur stands out in its ability to pervade the reader’s conscience. Moving us beyond feeling outraged and overwhelmed by man’s inhumanity to man, we develop a deep connection to the author and feel moved to do something to help, starting by recommending this book to everyone.
Related readings: They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, and Benjamin Ajak, with Judy A. Bernstein (PublicAffairs, a member of the Perseus Books Group 2005, 311 pp) What is the What, The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, A Novel by Dave Eggars, 2006 (Vintage 2007, 339 pp) Emma’s War, A True Story by Deborah Scroggins, 2002, (Vintage 392 pp)