Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Translator by Daoud Hari

Say, am I the last book blogger on the earth to review this excellent book?

The Translator is Daoud Hari's memoir of growing up in Darfur, Sudan, leaving his homeland to see the world outside of Sudan's borders, and then returning to help draw the world's attention his war-torn homeland using his knowledge of English, Arabic, and Zaghawa. Hari tells of his six sojourns back into a Sudan fraught with danger to help journalists from all over the world tell the stories that would persuade the world to take action to save Darfur. Using his language skills, his many contacts from rebel leaders to NGO leaders, and quick thinking Hari safely escorted several reporters into Sudan at great risk to his own life. Despite the terrifying nature of his work and several situations that turned ugly, Hari's narrative is strikingly optimistic, never losing hope that something can be done to save his people, and at some times, is even humorous in the most dire of situations. Hari's ability to see the good in situations is astonishing. For example, he tells of being in prison in Egypt before his return to Sudan where he doesn't lament his time in prison so much as he says that it was a great opportunity to meet and talk to new people from many places. This optimism, hope, and good humor buoys him through many a seemingly unbearable situation.

Hari's casual use of "you" as he attempts to relate his experiences to the reader's own gives the impression that you are sitting with him and he is telling you his story face to face. It's this style that gives the book so much of its power. As Hari "talks" to us, his great love of his homeland and its traditions shines through as he tells of his favorite camel, his respect and love for the strong women in his community who can usually be found dressed in beautiful bright colors, and his memory of a bygone era when the Zaghawa people and Arabs could be found dining in each other's tents and conflicts were resolved with honor far from villages full of women and children.

His conviction that one person can use his or her talents to change the way things are is infectious, and he is proof that this is true. He, at once, tells us that one person can make a difference, shows us that it is true, and challenges us saying, in effect, "If it was your family, your home, your life, wouldn't you do the same? Wouldn't you risk life and limb and do anything it took to keep evil men from extinguishing your entire way of life?" I wish that I could say that I would be so brave in the face of such a far-reaching crisis! Regardless of whether we would have the strength do what Hari has doen, in this book Hari has offered us an opportunity and a reason to step up and do something for the land and people that he loves, and in so doing set the precedent that this type of senseless genocidal killing will not be tolerated in the world any longer.

This is a book that everyone should read. Despite knowing something of Darfur and its struggles, I admit that until I read Hari's book, I was a little in the dark about the whys and wherefores of the conflict and about Darfur itself. Hari brings his community and his entire homeland to life and also explains the conflict that is tearing Darfur apart it in a way we all can understand and in such a way that we really can see what the world is losing if we simply stand by and allow this continue.

The official release date for this book is March 18.

Read other reviews at Musings of a Bookish Kitty, SomeReads, and Nothing of Importance.


  1. Nope, you're not the last. I hadn't even heard of this before!

  2. I haven't reviewed it yet! I really liked your take on it-you said a lot of the things I was planning on saying. Maybe I'll cheat and just link to you. ;)

  3. Wonderful review! I have this on my wish list...have almost pre-ordered it half a dozen times. I feel almost compelled to read it. And yet I've been apprehensive, too. I think you review has lessened the apprehension. While I know it will still be a very emotional read, I'm relieved to hear there are strains of hope in this book as well.

  4. I'm on the yet to read list but I'm not sure it's on my tbr list. I'll have to give it some thought. Your review is wonderful, however, and has me a little more curious than I was.


  5. Great review, Megan! I do agree that the author's narration and inclusion of the reader definitely played a part in how well it's been received.

  6. Come out and play! You've been tagged!

  7. It's a great review. I haven't encountered many books that adopt a second-person narrative. The use of "you" as he attempts to relate his experiences make them all the more convincing and powerful. I'll have to look out for this book. Thank you! :)

  8. Thanks everybody for the compliments on the review. I was just hoping I wasn't unintentionally mimicking every other thing that was already said about the book - but I guess I did all right! =)

    Eva, thanks for the link!

    Debi, didya get my comment about this on your blog?

    CJ, I'm glad my review has got you considering more seriously reading this book. It's hard, yes, but it's good.

    Jill, hey, I saw that you tagged me, but I can't for the life of me think of a good six word memoir. If one dawns on me soon, I'll be sure to post it! =)

    Matt, I always think that it's a little odd to use that second person narration, so I was excited to see it really work for Hari in the context of this book. Definitely check it out!

  9. Megan - here's a link to my review of The Translator. I'm adding a link to your review, too.