Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Translator

"You cannot be a human being and remain unmoved, yet if it is your job to get these stories out to the world, you keep going. So we did that."

The Translator by Daoud Hari was recommended to me as an excellent account of the life and troubles of human beings – human beings who happen to be halfway around the world.

As someone who is naturally interested in foreign cultures and lives, I sat down to read it, ready to pronounce a favorable judgment on the book. (A sad byproduct of my profession is my tendency to judge every book I read. Gone are the days when I read for sheer enjoyment and without analysis.)

As I settled into the book, my opinion quickly changed. The Translator, one man's memoir of life and experiences in Darfur, tells the tale of… an interpreter! This confusion plagues me every time someone asks me what I do for a living. When I answer, "I'm a translator," I am invariably asked, "Oh! Do you want to work for the UN?" "No, you're thinking of an interpreter. Translators work with written texts," I invariably reply with an inward sigh. Given this almost daily struggle, how could I endorse a book that encouraged this confusion?

Nonetheless, as I read further, I was captivated by Daoud's simple, real, and personable style. This book does not read like great literature with grandiose prose and clever metaphors. Rather, as you read it, you feel as though Daoud is sitting next to you, recounting his life in Darfur, his education, his personal trials, and his eventual work as an interpreter, helping share with the world at large the truth about the atrocities being committed in his land.

Daoud's style is simple and herein lies its power. If you are not familiar with the tragedies of Darfur then this book will shock you. In his gentle yet straightforward way, Daoud will lead you through a world where people are not distant and disconnected as we, in the Western World, have become. A world where one person's pain affects a whole village and one person's smile can make the world right. A world where men commit unspeakable atrocities against neighbors whom they have known their entire lives. And Daoud speaks these atrocities.

The Translator
is not an easy book to read. There were times when I had to set it aside because I simply could not digest any more, but I finished it and I have recommended it to friends and to family and now I'm recommending it to you.

Reading this book may encourage you to help in some small way.
It may encourage you to appreciate the people in your life.
It may simply help you to understand a little more of the world around you.

Whatever its impact on you – it is a book worth reading… as long as you don't let it confuse you as to the meaning of the word "translator."

"It says everything about this land to know that even the mountains are not to be trusted, and that the crunching sound under your camel's hooves is usually human bones, hidden and revealed as the wind pleases."

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