Thursday, August 21, 2008

One Reader's Opinion: The Translator

The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur, by Daoud Hari.

It seems to me unlikely that a more powerful, moving and important book will be published this year. As a young man, Daoud Hari left his village in North Darfur to see the wider world. He returned in 2003, just before his village was attacked by the Sudanese army and the Janjaweed militia during the early days of the genocide. He managed to escape to Chad, but then decided to use the English language skills he had acquired to act as a guide, taking researchers, journalists and aid workers back to the very land from which he fled. He did this knowing that if he were captured by the Sudanese army he would almost certainly be killed. And indeed it is remarkable that he survived to tell his story.

The horrors that Daoud Hari both witnessed and endured might have made this book almost unreadable were it not for the extraordinary beauty, sensitivity, and even occasional humor with which the author tells his story. The result is a book that, while sad and infuriating, is also inspiring and, amazingly enough, a joy to read. The Translator is a book that shows both the best and the worst of human nature, and compels its readers to wonder and to act. It is also highly appropriate reading during the run of the Beijing Olympics.

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