The Translator by Daoud Hari

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”.

“When I was with the BBC,” I told him, “we saw where you – I don’t know if it was you, but maybe it was you – lined up eight-one boys and young men and hacked them to death with machetes. The smell of that – it was three days old – made the journalists so sick that they had to go back to a clinic in Chad for three days. So maybe that’s what you like to do. What the journalists like to do is take pictures of what you do so everyone can see what the Sudan Army does to the Sudan people. We saw where a grandmother had been burned with her three grandchildren. So if you are not proud of this, you should stop doing it. Journalists do what they do all over the world and nobody calls them spies.” (pg. 156)

Hari’s memoir offers a different peek into the Darfur genocide. He is not a boy solider nor a politician, but simply a tribesmen who translates for journalists. The traditional African culture just seeps through the pages of this memoir. His story, as told to Dennis Michael Burke and Megan M. McKenna, is fairly interesting, but the story is also thinly pieced together, and it the lack of connectivity started to detract from the memoir’s overall story almost from the very beginning. I lost focus about halfway through.

The first appendix detailing how the conflict in Darfur came to be is quite possibly the most interesting part of his entire book. But, as for the actual memoir, I particularly enjoyed how confrontational and frank he is about the conflict both with the read and those involved.

Book Mentioned:

  • Hari, Daoud. The Translator: A Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur. New York: Random House, 2008 Print. 224 pgs. ISBN: 9781400067442. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Random House. Retrieved: January 24, 2009.

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