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The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of…

The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur

by Daoud Hari

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A tribesman's memoir of Darfur
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
I do not know why it was so hard for me to get into this book. I had to try 3 times and the thied time I finally managed to fully read it. Great story teller. Learned more about Dafur. An interesting read ( )
  Marlene-NL | Apr 12, 2013 |
Daoud Hari is was born and raised in Darfur. He was lucky enough to grow up educated. He learned English and was taught and had a great love of literature (american and european). He recounts a happy childhood. Very different from growing up in the west like myself, he was living in poverty and there was fighting around his villages but he re-counts be relatively safe, loving his environment and his family.

Soon after he finished his education his family encouraged him to stay home and start a family; which Daoud postponed explaining, "For to do such things well requires that they be done happily and forever and my particular education had inclined me toward a hungry curiosity for the world." pg. 24 He decided to travel some but when hearing about the fighting escalating in his home country and villages he returned to see his family.

At this time the reader is thrown right into the civil war and genocide with Daoud. He experience first hand rebel-armies, an government, family and friends dying around him and much more. Many of his friends enter the resistance but his brother taught him to use his brain and not a gun. So Daoud helps his immediate family flee from on on-coming attack and then goes and word in the refugee camps in Chad.

At first here is no outside assistance but eventually the world responded with much needed supplies for this refugees. Daoud re-counts be greatly for the world’s help but also frustrated with the supplies they sent. “Canvas and plastic make very hot shelters in a desert, and these were what the world had sent- exactly the wrong things and not nearly enough of it....Even so with all the bright people in this world and so much wealth, could there not be humane shelters for such times if we are a family?" pg 74.

Because he knows English he starts serving as a translator for reports that want to go into Sudan and see’s all kinds of atrocities.

When taking BBC reporters to see the after-effects of a recently attacked village he explains: "Some of the BBC people had to return to Chad where they were in a medical clinic for three days to recover from what they saw, and smelled and learned about the nature of what simply must be called evil." pg 113

He risks his life over and over again to help reporters get the story out about the fighting in his country. He, a reporter and journalist are taken prisoner mid-way through the book and the rest of the book is about that ordeal. They were moved from prison to prison, threatened, questioned and tortured.

"Torture was the popular new thing because Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib were everywhere in the news at the time, and crazy men like this were now getting permission to be crazy." pg. 131

I didn’t know much about Darfur prior to reading this book so it was really fascinating and very sad. It was interesting reading it from the perspective of Daoud. He explains how the genocide started and why it’s happening (see history below). He also explains how there are huge reservoirs of fresh water under Darfur. The indigenous people cannot use this water. They are being removed so Arab can come in and rule this land.

"This is my prediction. When the government had removed or killed all the traditional non-Arabs, then it will get the traditional Arabs to fight one another so they too will disappear from valuable lands. This is already happening in areas where they removal of non-Arab Africans is nearly complete." pg 190

The government armies' hero is Osama Bin Laden. He tells of real evil is this world and how power, greed and control ruins the lives of millions. Like most other genocides the army is mainly of young boys. "They had been taken as soldiers against their will, drugged, and went to battle." pg. 109

At the writing of the book Daoud give the following figures for his country:
2 1/2 million displaced people
hundreds and thousands dead ( )
  BarbF | Oct 16, 2012 |
A Remarkable Book! A Remarkable Man!: In the modern Western world, vivid documentary photojournalism plays an important role in how we world learn about major world events. However, when the story is genocide, the visual record can be so horrific that most people instinctually flinch and turn away, unable to bear the sight of so much human suffering. Croatia, Rwanda, Darfur--we are bombarded by harrowing nightmarish images.

It is easy to see why most people might not want to read a book about genocide. But they fail to realize that books work on the brain in an entirely different manner than images. A well-conceived book can promote understanding and provoke action. Take "The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur" by Daoud Hari as an example. Readers would be making a grave mistake if they turned away from this powerful and unforgettable memoir. This book is more than a recounting of genocide. It is a fierce story of heroism and survival--it is also a loving lament to a culture and people on the brink of extinction.

This book is definitely not what you might expect. There are no indictments against the international community's indifference. There is no anger--no blame. Instead, there is a calm heartfelt recounting of three years in the life of one tribesman working as a translator for Western journalist covering the story of war-torn Darfur. The years covered are 2003 through 2006. During this period, the author took immense risks to lead first a team of UN genocide investigators, and then six separate teams of Western journalists into dangerous war-torn Darfur. That he has come out of these ordeals alive is a miracle.

Daoud Hari tells an incredible story! For the last one-third of the book, I found myself gripping the book, unable to tear myself away before knew what happened. Compelling is a word that hardly does this book justice!

Although most of the book deals with the three years that he served as a translator, the author also tells us briefly about his early childhood. These are fascinating tales that bring to life the ancient and vibrant culture of Darfur's peoples.

As a young boy, Hari demonstrated a gift for languages. He was proficient in Arabic as well as his native Zaghawa language, but he also learned English. He learned it so well that could easily lose himself in the English classics--books like Brontë's "Jane Eyre," Stevenson's "Treasure Island," Dickens' "Oliver Twist," Orwell's "Animal Farm," and Paton's "Cry the Beloved Country." His father wanted him to become a camel herder, but Daoud had a head full of dreams. He took off for Libya and found work as a restaurant worker in rich hotels serving international tourists. Later, he tried to smuggle himself across the border into Israel to get a better paying job, but ended up first in an Israeli jail, and then later transferred to an Egyptian jail. Eventually, he was freed to return back to Darfur. He arrived home in 2003, a day before his village was savagely attacked. First, came the Sudanese government helicopters raining down bombs and machinegun fire. After a short interval, this was followed by the "Janjaweed" ground troops intent on killing and destroying everything in their path. His village fought back and many were killed and maimed. Fortunately, the author escaped with most of his family to a refugee camp in neighboring Chad. It is there where western journalist discovered his translating talents.

Working with the UN genocide investigators and journalist, Hari met face to face with countless victims. He hears their stories and tells many of them again in the pages of this book. The scenes of massacre are related with exquisite sensitivity and maturity. Yes, there are descriptions of unspeakable atrocities. But this book is also brimming with humanity--stories of strong family ties, devotion, and love. Overwhelmingly, it is the goodness of man that shines through this horrifying true-life tale.

Don't miss this remarkable book. It will leave you with a better understanding for the nature of genocide and for the complexity of the ongoing situation in Darfur. Most of all, it will stir you to action...after all, that is surely the author's intent--the author must still feel he is fighting the battle for his people, and he is doing it with the one tool he knows best: his extraordinary gift for language.
  lonepalm | Dec 8, 2011 |
Daoud Hari is a Zaghawa tribesman born in a village in Darfur, who, at an early age, showed an aptitude for languages. As an adult he lived abroad for a while, but was remanded to Sudan after violating a visa requirement. Shortly after he returns to his village, it is attacked and destroyed by one of the militia groups that terrorized the Darfur regions throughout much of the last decade. Members of Hari’s family are killed and others are separated. Hari decides to join the line of displaced persons heading for a refugee camp in Chad and walks with the others to the border. Once in Chad, his facility with languages soon lands him jobs as a translator for reporters eager to enter Darfur and report on the atrocities being committed. Hari was exceptional at safely leading reporters through the most dangerous parts of Darfur, giving them a firsthand look at the horrors destroying his country. His knowledge of languages, his charming personality, and his daring helped reporters from organizations like The New York Times, the BBC, and the United Nations acquire the evidence needed to declare the conflict in Darfur genocide.

Although a bit dated due to recent political developments, I still think The Translator has relevance. Hari’s experiences as a translator bring to mind stories coming out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places where the U.S. is relying on native translators, drivers, and facilitators of meetings and interviews. This memoir captivated me because of the edge-of-your-seat stories and Hari’s open, friendly style of writing. Despite the tragedies he describes, he is optimistic about the fate of his country and trusting that people are basically good. I have read some books about Sudan and Darfur that left me emotional exhausted and depressed, but this one left me hopeful. For that reason alone, I’m glad I picked it up. ( )
1 vote labfs39 | Jun 30, 2011 |
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’If God must break your leg He will at least teach you to limp’ – so it is said in Africa.
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Copied and Pasted from the Random House Website:


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 destroyedhis 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.
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This is a harrowing memoir of how one person has made a difference: Daoud Hari helped inform the world about the genocide in Darfur. Hari, a Zaghawa tribesman, grew up in a village in the Darfur region of Sudan. In 2003, traditional life was shattered when government-backed militias attacked Darfur's villages with helicopters and on horseback, raping and murdering citizens and burning villages. His family dispersed, Hari escaped. He and friends helped survivors find food, water, and safety. When international aid groups and reporters arrived, Hari offered his services as a translator and guide, using his high school knowledge of languages. In doing so, time and again he risked his life, for the government of Sudan had outlawed journalists in the region. Then, inevitably, his luck ran out and he was captured. Now freed, he is a living witness to genocide.--From publisher description.… (more)

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