Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Translator - Daoud Hari

Title: The Translator
Author: Daoud Hari
Date Finished: June 28, 2008 #36
Pages: 189

I don't really know how to explain a book when I can't understand the things that it tells about. Unfortunately I know very little about Africa--and I am trying to remedy that by reading about different parts of the continent--earlier this year I read A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (my thoughts here). And while this book takes place on the other side of Africa, the heartache it contains is the same.

The Translator--Daoud Hari--is from Darfur, a small corner of Sudan, which is directly south of Egypt. His country is torn apart by different rebel groups and it seems to me that the government supports a different rebel group on any given day based on whim. Hari, who is wanted by the Sudanese government, has retreated to Chad where he meets reporters from other countries. Using his knowledge of the Arabic and English languages he takes the reporters across the Chad/Sudan border so that they can interview villagers. Hari's main goal is to prove that genocide is occurring in Sudan--genocide is apparently difficult to prove. Natasha from Maw Books has written several posts about the genocide that is occurring in Sudan as well as other African countries--this is a problem that is prevalent and doesn't seem to be going away any time soon (the link for Natasha's blog will take you to her post about Genocide in Darfur).

What I can't understand is how something like this happens--how does a country continent become so torn--where people--kids even--are carrying around guns and machetes and killing others based on nothing (not nothing--but it seems that way). I don't think I'll ever really be able to understand no matter how many of these accounts I read. Hari's memoir was chilling and at times difficult to read, but like Ishmael Beah, he offers a message of hope as he continually reaches out to others in his cry for help.

I realize these books aren't for everyone, but I think it is important for us to be aware of what is happening in our world. It is unfathomable to me in every conceivable way, but that doesn't mean that genocide is not occurring every day in some corner of the world. In terms of the actual book itself--Hari's writing is very clear, even a little simple. Sometimes I was not always sure of the time frame as he seemed to skip around at the beginning, but he soon finds a rhythm and tells a strong story of his time as a translator to reporters. There is an incident in the second half of the book that gripped me as a reader and I couldn't put the book down until there was a resolution. There was a resolution, of course, but not the one that Hari is hoping for--not yet anyway.

Also reviewed:
Natasha at Maw Books
Debi at Nothing of Importance
Wendy of Caribousmom
Literary Feline at Musings of a Bookish Kitty
3M at 1 More Chapter
*let me know if I've missed you


Warren said...

Though I haven't read this book, your review definitely makes me want to. I believe there should be more books about the atrocities in Darfur to help spread the knowledge of this event. It truly is a modern day holocaust occurring as we speak. It will take strong writers and strong people to get something done, but I hope that with enough people supporting the cause a resolution will be made soon.



Wendy said...

Excellent review! Thanks for the link to mine as well :)

Joy said...

I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

Laura said...

I definitely tend to shy away from book that contain difficult subject matter--even more so if they are non-fiction. I do know that I should be more aware of what is taking place around the world. Thanks for the review, and I'll be adding this to the already lengthy list of books I'd like to borrow from you!

verbivore said...

I'm with Warren in thinking that the more books are published about these kinds of things and the more people write about them, the more chance we have to correct some of these wrongs. But its an uphill battle. I've had this book on my radar for a while so thank you for reminding me about it.

Nymeth said...

I really have to read this book. It sounds incredibly hard, but just as important. Like you, I don't know much about Africa, and I'd like to remedy that. I think we tend to think of genocide as something that's in the pass, but since that's NOT the case, it's important to become aware of it.

Trish said...

*Warren - It is such a short little book, but definitely worth the time. In fact, this is one of those that I wish were a little longer! But yes, hopefully one day the atrocities will come to an end (hopefully being the operative word). You should check out the link I left for Maw Books--she gives several books that handle the topic of genocide in Darfur.

*Wendy - Thanks. :) This book was really difficult to write about without getting too political or fired up--but I guess the reaction that Hari is going for is for people to move their butts and get fired up!

*Joy - I look forward to reading your thoughts. I think I might prefer A Long Way Gone, but then again they are two totally different situations and stories...

*Laura - I think that Hari handles the subject matter with relative ease--it was much easier to read this one than A Long Way Gone where the detail is horrid. Both good reads, though.

*Verbivore - I hope you get a chance to read this one--and I would also recommend A Long Way Gone. I know there are several others but unfortunately I have to take them in small doses...

*Nymeth - There are a couple of incidents that are difficult to read about but for the most part it isn't quite as graphic as I expected. As my husband is always reminding me, Hitler was not the only one who practiced genocide--but you're right--it just doesn't seem possible that in these modern times that something this atrocious could be happening (of course 1930-40 was modern also). I hope you get a chance to read this one.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Thanks Trish for linking over to my post about book recommendations about Darfur. I've really gotten fired up about this issue and hope to continue to read and post about Darfur. This book was a powerful, little gem. I hope everybody takes the time to find out something about Darfur. Unlike other genocides, this one is very slow moving meaning that there is time to do something about it! Thanks for spreading the word.

Diana Raabe said...

...a fine review, and I've been wondering about this one, but...

Ishmael Beah's "a long way gone" left me heavy-hearted and I'm not sure I'm ready for that again.

Which would you say is the better written book between the two?

Stephanie said...

I read this and found it difficult to review as well. It's not easy to understand things we've never seen and hope to never see, but I agree- his story is so very important, and we're helping to make the world aware of his sufferings, and the suffering of others from his region.

You seem to enjoy the same kinds of books I do. :)

Trish said...

*Natasha - This was a powerful book, but I wish that Hari had gone into a little more detail about the history. He did go into a little bit of detail but I feel I just got a small snapshot. Definitely opened my eyes, though!

*Diane - Good question although the books are completely different and so it is difficult to judge which is the better. Overall I'm going to have to go with A Long Way Gone just because the perspective was so immediate--even Hari is in the middle of the action and is taken prison he is also more of a bystander. Both important books, though!

*Stephanie - Thanks for coming by! If you haven't read it yet, I would also strongly recommend A Long Way Gone--it is a memoir of a young man who was formerly a boy soldier in Sierra Leone. It is also a very powerful read.