Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Translator by Daoud Hari

The Translator

The Translator
by Daoud Hari

Hardback: 204 pages
Publisher: Random House
First Released: 2008

Author Website
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Source: Bought from

Back Cover Blurb:
I am the translator who has taken journalists into dangerous Darfur. It is my intention now to take you there in this book, if you have the courage to come with me.

The young life of Daoud Hari–his friends call him David–has been one of bravery and mesmerizing adventure. He is a living witness to the brutal genocide under way in Darfur.

The Translator is a suspenseful, harrowing, and deeply moving memoir of how one person has made a difference in the world–an on-the-ground account of one of the biggest stories of our time. Using his high school knowledge of languages as his weapon–while others around him were taking up arms–Daoud Hari has helped inform the world about Darfur.

Hari, a Zaghawa tribesman, grew up in a village in the Darfur region of Sudan. As a child he saw colorful weddings, raced his camels across the desert, and played games in the moonlight after his work was done. In 2003, this traditional life was shattered when helicopter gunships appeared over Darfur’s villages, followed by Sudanese-government-backed militia groups attacking on horseback, raping and murdering citizens and burning villages. Ancient hatreds and greed for natural resources had collided, and the conflagration spread.

Though Hari’s village was attacked and destroyed his family decimated and dispersed, he himself escaped. Roaming the battlefield deserts on camels, he and a group of his friends helped survivors find food, water, and the way to safety. When international aid groups and reporters arrived, Hari offered his services as a translator and guide. In doing so, he risked his life again and again, for the government of Sudan had outlawed journalists in the region, and death was the punishment for those who aided the “foreign spies.” And then, inevitably, his luck ran out and he was captured. . . .

The Translator tells the remarkable story of a man who came face-to-face with genocide– time and again risking his own life to fight injustice and save his people.

This memoir mainly focuses on the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. Daoud Hari not only speaks of his own life, work, and adventures but also tells many stories of those he met during his translation work. This helps put a human face to the news headlines.

Daoud Hari tells his story in a very simple but a profoundly moving way. This is not a "fun" book, but it is an eye-opener to the reasons behind the conflict and is a first-hand look at what is really occurring in this area.

The book is fast-paced and always interesting. I highly recommend this book.

Excerpt: Chapter One
I am sure you know how important it can be to get a good phone signal. We were speeding through the hot African desert in a scratched and muddy Land Cruiser that had been much whiter a week earlier. Our driver, a Darfur tribesman like me, was swerving through thorny acacia bushes, working the gears expertly in the deep sands of another and always another ravine, which we call a wadi, and sailing over the bumps in the land--there are no roads to speak of. In the backseat, a young news filmmaker from Britain, Philip Cox, was holding on as we bounced and as our supplies thumped and clanked and sloshed around. A veteran of these deserts, he was in good humor--even after a long week of dusty travel and so many emotionally difficult interviews. Survivors told us of villages surrounded at night by men with torches and machine guns, the killing of men, women, and children, the burning of people alive in the grass huts of Darfur. They told us of the rape and mutilation of young girls, of execution by machete of young men--sometimes eighty at a time in long lines.

You cannot be a human being and remain unmoved, yet if it is your job to get these stories out to the world, you keep going. So we did that.

I was Philip's translator and guide, and it was my job to keep us alive. Several times each hour I was calling military commanders from rebel groups or from the Chad National Army to ask if we should go this way or that way to avoid battles or other trouble.

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