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.