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.
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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