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The Translator: A Memoir Paperback – January 13, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. "Unique," a word avoided by most journalists, is just the first to describe this heart-stopping memoir, written by a native Darfuri translator who, after escaping the massacre of his village by the genocidal Janjaweed, returned to work with reporters and UN investigators in the riskiest of situations. Taking readers far from their comfort zones, Hari charts the horrific landscape of genocide in the stories of refugee camp survivors: "It is interesting how many ways there are for people to be hurt and killed, and for villages to be terrorized and burned... I would say that these ways to die and suffer are unspeakable, and yet they were spoken: we interviewed 1,134 human beings over the next weeks." Danger is rampant, especially at border crossings, and the effect on outsiders is profound: "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." Homey facts about the loyalty of camels, the pecking order in villages and vast family networks bring respite from more dire tales, including Hari's long, multi-site imprisonment with a U.S. journalist and their Chadian driver. The captives' endurance through uncertainty and torture is unbelievable, and their eventual rescue reads like James Bond by way of boldface politicos like recent presidential contender Bill Richardson. Throughout, Hari demonstrates almost incomprehensible decency; those with the courage to join Hari's odyssey may find this a life-changing read. A helpful appendix provides a primer on the Darfur situation.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Daoud, a Zaghawa tribesman in northern Darfur, fled his village, which was under attack by Sudanese militiamen, in 2003. His brother was killed and his family driven into exile across Sudan. Lamenting the demise of old traditions that called for the settlement of disputes among ethnic groups with peaceable dinners in one another’s homes, Daoud fought back in his efforts as a translator to help document the carnage in his native land. In this first-person account, Daoud recalls imprisonment in Egypt, suffering in refugee camps, and efforts by ordinary Sudanese to hold onto families and hope in the face of genocide. Daoud worked as a translator for a British filmmaker and for award-winning reporters with the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and BBC. As a translator for UN investigators of genocide, Daoud listened to stories told slowly and quietly, feeling emotions the tellers dared not let themselves feel. Daoud writes beautifully and simply, offering insight, relaying the analysis of the reporters he worked with, and demonstrating the power of a man emotionally vested in the story being told. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (January 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812979176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812979176
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #677,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Balbach on March 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There are a number of compelling memoirs by Sudanese authors such as They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky (2005), What Is the What (2006), and at least 4 more by or about "The Lost Boys" of southern Sudan. As the conflict has moved north and west, like birds flying before the storm, we are now seeing a new wave of heartbreaking memoirs arriving from the Darfur region. Each story is as unique as the person telling it, and all offer a glimpse into a world few know about because western journalists have so much difficulty working in the country, thus making this first-hand narrative by a native Darfurian a unique and important source.

As a young man Daoud Hari witnessed the destruction of his idyllic rural village by modern Russian-made helicopter gunships and, like the logs of a raft breaking apart in the rapids, he and his family spun off in many harrowing directions. Hari decided early on that he would "use his brains and not a gun to make a better life" for himself. After arriving at a refugee camp in Chad, his skill at languages allowed him to work as a translator and guide for westerners on fact-finding trips across the border into Darfur. On about his 7th trip in August 2006 he became embroiled in an international incident with kidnapped National Geographic journalist Paul Salopek, making headlines around the world. Through the help of friends Hari was able to get out of Sudanese jail and move to the United States, where he now works for SaveDarfur.Org

Hari's easy to read book is an excellent entry point for learning about the Darfur conflict.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Tom Carpenter VINE VOICE on April 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was hesitant to purchase this book because the writing seemed very simple as I skimmed the book in the bookstore; however, it is this simple prose that empowers the journey you take with the author. From the opening story of his life being saved by a Journalist to the closing account of the torture and eventual freedom granted to him (don't worry, this doesn't reveal a surprise ending - after all, he did write the book), you feel that you are being told a story in the simple traditional form of an African tribal legend. Sadly, this is no legend!

When I read about the little girl killed by a soldier in a horrific way, I wept. When I read Daoud's commentary on why Darfur marriages last so long (they sleep separately), I laughed. What struck me was how much this man and his family has suffered and, yet, he laughs. He can teach us much about suffering and the ability to continue to believe and hope.

The more important part of the stories, however, is the part that should make us scream for change in the way we have dealt with this genocide and others like it. It's time to take faster action. When we have to wait until there are over 1000 stories to be heard (in order to decide if it is genocide), there's something VERY wrong with our process.

The author makes you feel like you've walked the sandy world in which he grew up. You feel as if you've ridden a camel, pushed a Land Rover out of a ditch, survived a beating and crossed borders illegally for the sake of human life. Why? Because he tells the story in very simple English, which makes you feel your hearing about it all from a child's mind. You connect with the story much as a child envisions she is in a traditional fairy tale. Very powerful!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By DWD's Reviews VINE VOICE on June 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately, the only thing that 99.999% of the world associates with the word "Darfur" is death, hate and tragedy. Daoud Hari's small memoir reminds the reader that Darfur was once home to millions - a place of family, friend, play and work.

That is the strongest asset of this short work - it puts a human face on a large tragedy. Written in simple, elegant English and with a wry sense of humor ("Most people like me, are tall - I am six feet - and are also a little thin because of all the walking, the hard work and the dieting that is one of the many advantages of poverty."[p. 108]), this book is an extension of Hari's way of fighting back against the forces that are destroying Darfur. Rather than taking up arms, Hari decided to expose Darfur to the world by escorting journalists from Chad into Darfur in Sudan.

This was not a choice for the faint of heart. Journalists and their guides were considered to be spies by the government of Sudan. Hari and his journalists were exposed to gunfire, captured multiple times and eventually one group was captured, tortured and eventually released through the efforts of former presidential candidate and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

Before reading the book, I suggest reading "Appendix 1: A Darfur Primer" at the end of the text. It helps give his story some context.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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.
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