How is it that despite an international outcry, the displacement of nearly two million people and the murder of upwards of half a million more continues to this day in Darfur? "[E]ven though some people think Darfur is simple genocide," Daoud Hari writes in his remarkable memoir, The Translator, "it is important to know that it is not. It is a complicated genocide."Readers will get some sense of the political and psychological complexity of this genocide in Hari's vivid account of the harrowing 40 days during 2006 when he, American journalist Paul Salopek and their driver, Ali, were arrested, tortured and accused of being spies, first by rebel gunman of Hari's own tribe, then by a mad regional commander inspired by the atrocities at Abu Ghraib, and finally by the military governor representing the government of Sudan.
But Hari's stirring memoir is not meant to be a geopolitical analysis of the conflict raging through the western region of Sudan. Rather it is a personal, surprisingly engaging story of his own experiences growing up in Darfur as the youngest son in a family of herders and shepherds. Their centuries-old way of life was shattered in 2003 when members of his Zaghawa people rose up against repression by the Sudanese government, which used the occasion to launch a systematic effort to depopulate the Darfur region.
Hari, who developed a passion for English novels in high school, became a translator for a commission investigating genocide in Darfur and later for American reporters. Released, finally, from prison in Sudan, Hari continues to advocate for the people of Darfur with a sweetness and humanity that is vastly more compelling than the Sudan government's argument of bullets and bombs.