Book Review: The Translator by Daoud Hari

Welcome to the Ignorant Historian! If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

The Translator: a Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur is the story of Daoud Hari, a member of the persecuted Zaghawa tribe, who returns to the Darfur region of Sudan.

Hari had been in Egypt and Israel seeking employment in order to provide for his family, but got arrested for doing so illegally.  After being held in Israel and then Egypt, he is finally going to be handed over to Sudan.

Fortunately, with some help, he was able to escape to avoid being handed over to the government that wants his people dead.  Now released,  he wants nothing more than to see his family again.

Yet, he doesn’t make that his only goal. He decides to do what he can to help his people by using his language skills to translate for researchers and journalists who will get the word out about the genocide.

I must admit, I was quite ignorant about this region. This was a great introduction for me in to what Hari describes as the complex genocide in Darfur.

Of course, the details of the genocide are quite appalling. But Hari does a good job of not focusing on the graphic natures of the horrors nor glossing them over.

He had some interesting things to say about genocide prevention and the American government. He had good things to say about the American people, but not necessarily about the American government. He says, “The proof of a democracy is surely whether or not a government represents the hearts of its people” (p. 86). In context, he seems to be implying that the American government in fact does not represent its people, as the people want action in Darfur, but the government remains inactive.

I also find it saddening to see the role that imperialism had on the region and the negative consequences still felt today. Of course, I’ve seen the negative impact of forcing “superior” Western political ideals on other peoples in my studies of other regions (even after the Western nation relinquishes sovereignty), but here’s just another example.  We in the United States and Western Europe can’t just sit back and point our fingers…our nations aren’t innocent.

If you are as ignorant about Darfur as I was, I’d recommend this book (and even if you know something about the conflict in Darfur). It’s short and personable, and a easy way to begin to grasp the complexities and atrocities in Darfur.