Friday, February 22, 2008

Book Review:

I had the good fortune to receive an Early Reviewer's copy of The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur through my LibraryThing account (see the sidebar). By participating in the Early Reviewers program, one is encouraged to post a review of the free book. Below is my review. I hope it encourages you to read this book, or one of several others currently in circulation on this topic.

This is a brief but very powerful memoir that takes time to digest what Daoud Hari is really telling us. The title, _The Translator_ , sent me to the dictionary as I've pondered this book. To translate means: "to express the sense (of words or text) in another language.

As Daoud faced death and watched the destruction his family, village, and way of life at the hands of the Sudanese Bashir government army and the Janjaweed, he made the decision to become a translator to journalists with the hope that the rest of the world would learn of the tragedy and injustice.

Daoud was able to do this because his father honored young Daoud's urge to see the larger world and sent him off to get an education. Daoud's education consisted of: reading of classic English literature; a temptation to join Zaghawa resistance fighting, and travels across the Sahara to Libya and Egypt. His brother, Ahmed, encouraged him to use his brain and not a gun for fighting with the words, "Shooting people doesn't make you a man. Doing the right thing for who you are makes you a man."

With these skills and values, Daoud moves from translator to interpreter in writing this book. He uses the account and his understanding of his harrowing experiences to interpret for us what the genocide in Darfur means to us outside of Africa.

In this book we learn of an earlier time when nomadic Arabs and agrarian Zaghawa and other tribes had traditional ways of living side by side and settling disputes over resources. We see a despotic government, greedy for resources, impose on this way of life by turning neighbor against neighbor in violence to clear the land of it's people.

Daoud walks us through the refugee camps and graciously acknowledges the provision of the NGO's, while at the same time pointing out the inadequacies of those provisions to meet the conditions and the need. He points out the plight of women and children, faced with serial rape as the price for collecting essential firewood.

He relates the experience of arriving to visit the tattered remains of his family just before an attack which takes the life of his brother and mentor, Ahmed. And he describes suffering and death of a magnitude beyond comprehension.

The education Daoud has received enables him to succinctly outline the politics behind this tragedy for the reader. As I read this book, similar events of the twentieth century haunted me: the Armenian Genocide, the WWII Holocaust; the Balkans, Rawanda....and now Darfur. All cases where diverse communities lived side my side in a degree of harmony with the blessings of a rich culture until despotic governments incited death and destruction for the material gain of the few in power.

Daoud closes this book with a subtle challenge to the reader:: "For it has no meaning to take risks for news stories unless the people who read them will act."

It is an echo of Edmund Burke's famous quotation: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
How can we not act?

1 comment:

  1. Great review Valerie. I'm not sure if I will read it though while it's still gray and cold, even though it sounds like the human spirit triumphs in the end. I'll keep it in mind though, so your review got my attention.


tie in the loose ends...