PENGUIN, £6.99 Order (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897
The translator, By Daoud Hari
Heroism and little miracles amid the barbarity of Darfur
Tuesday 23 September 2008
Beyond all the headlines on Darfur – hundred of thousands dead, millions displaced, militias terrorising civilians, African Union peacekeepers deployed (or not), United Nations mandates – here is the story of one man: Daoud Hari, from the Zaghawa tribe. He was outside Darfur when the massacres began, and decided to go back just as everyone else was running the other way.
An English-speaker, Hari could help foreign journalists and aid workers to explore the afflicted region, allowing them to take Darfur's stories to the outside world. Those stories told of mass slaughter and rape; the gunning down of mothers and children; the killing of men such as Hari's beloved older brother Ahmed, shot while defending the family's village from Janjaweed attack.
Hari knew the massive risks he would face by returning to Darfur. He negotiated an area not only seething with brutality but changing every day, with alliances switching, government deals with rebels coming together and coming apart, and nobody sure who was on whose side from one morning to the next. Of a number of saved-by-a-whisker escapes, this book concerns itself particularly with one sequence of events that sees Hari, the American journalist in his charge and their driver held for several weeks. They are handed from one rebel or government-controlled group to the next, beaten, accused of spying, questioned, tortured.
Recent events in Darfur have been grotesque in their scale and barbarity. But Hari's book is remarkable not for the near-unprecedented atrocities he describes, but the manner in which the story is told: The Translator is a warm, wise, often funny book. It is about strength in friendship and family, about trust, and doing whatever one can to make things better for others; a book without a shade of cynicism. It seeks to understand a crisis that has robbed Hari of his home, yet it is written without bitterness or anger. It is an extraordinary piece of writing, whose very simplicity can be beautiful, or devastating.
Hari writes to change Darfur, but also to make other such stories impossible in future. The shelters in the refugee camps in Chad were made with stitched-together bits of old canvas reused from Sierra Leone and Rwanda. His is a grim tale, but full of little miracles, too, leavened by charm (with delightful paeans to the greatness of camels), luck, heroism and generosity of spirit. The complexity of Darfur may be staggering, daunting to understand. But in The Translator, Hari shows himself the very best of guides.
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
Grace Dent on TV: Peter Kay's Car Share made me genuinely LOL
Avengers: Age of Ultron set to make box office history with $84.5m US opening
The highly NSFW poster for Gaspar Noé's Love makes Nymphomaniac look like 50 Shades
Red Dwarf returns: Craig Charles quits Coronation Street to return to comedy sci-fi series
New on Netflix UK May 2015: From Fast & Furious 6 to World War Z and Grace and Frankie
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils