"If God must break your leg He will at least teach you to limp - so
it is said in Africa. This book is my poor limping - a modest
account that cannot tell every story that deserves telling. I have
seen and heard many things in Darfur that have broken my heart. I
bring the stories to you because I know most people want others to
have good lives and, when they understand the situation, they will
do what they can to bend the world back toward kindness. This is
when human beings, I believe, are most admirable."
The young life of Daoud Hari - his friends call him David - has
been one of bravery and mesmerizing adventure. As a translator and
the guide of choice to media, the US Embassy, and the United
Nations, Hari became a vital link to the outside world, a living
witness to the brutal genocide underway in Darfur. Most of the
reporting on the great tragedies of our day has been written by
journalists, and after-the-fact. Rarely, in a conflict of this
magnitude, has there been an eyewitness voice to the events as they
are still happening. Daoud Hari is that voice.
The Translator is a suspenseful, harrowing and
deeply moving memoir of how one person can make a difference in the
world - an on-the-ground account of one of the biggest stories of
From the Hardcover edition.
"A beautifully written and often poetic story of personal courage
and redemption in the face of the worst that we can be. [Hari]
invites us not only to discover but to be our better selves." -
James Orbinski, author of An Imperfect
"What a beautiful and powerfully told story. The harrowing details
of Daoud Hari's survival in the most nightmarish of times oblige us
to keep our faith in human decency. I will read The
Translator again and again." -Wayson Choy
"May be the biggest small book of this year, or any year....In a
voice that is restrained, generous, gentle and - astonishingly -
humorous...Hari allows the vastness of Darfur's suffering to seep
into the reader's consciousness in a way that a raw, more emotional
telling might now. Gently ironic...Moving." -The Washington
1. Daoud Hari manages to find the good in many people and makes
friends easily. As he says, "I bring the stories to you because I
know most people want others to have good lives and, when they
understand the situation, they will do what they can to steer the
world back to kindness." How does he make these friends? How can we
apply this to our own lives? Do you agree that most people want
others to have good lives?
2. The conflict in Darfur is often described as being between
black Africans and Arabs. The book shows that the conflict is more
complicated than that. What are some of the root causes of the
conflict in Darfur? How did the African farmers and Arab nomads
live together before the conflict? What are the similarities to
other conflicts around the world? How can these conflicts be
prevented in the future, particularly in light of global
3. What specific steps can the world take to help ensure that
Darfuris are allowed to return home, and to send the message that
genocide doesn't work? Do you think genocide has worked so far in
this conflict or in others? Can it be prevented in the future? If
4. Daoud describes the suffering of Darfuri refugees,
particularly women and children. How are women and children
refugees most vulnerable and what can be done to help them? What is
the difference between refugees and internally displaced persons?
Where else in the world do large numbers of refugees live? What do
you know about them, and what is being done to help them survive
and eventually return home?
5. When Daoud is in the small jail near Aswan, Egypt, with the
old jailer, and he finds the Egyptian hundred-pound note in a
pocket he had forgotten existed, he says that the note "was so
folded and faded that I think it was waiting for me for a long time
in that pocket, in the way that many things are waiting for us to
be ready to receive them." What does Daoud mean by this? Can you
describe how this could apply to your own life?
6. Daoud says at the end of the book that it is likely people
are still being killed in Darfur and suffering in the camps as you
read the book. What were the most recent events in Darfur when you
read the book? How can you act to promote peace in Darfur and to
help ensure that the refugees are returned to their land? What
actions should the international community take?
7. Daoud uses his language skills to help his people in the only
way he knows how - as a translator. Why is this role so important?
How does this work help the people of Darfur? Others he knows have
chosen to use guns. What do you think of this choice?
8. Daoud writes about how he had known for a long time that he
could not help his family in the way his brothers had or as his
father and grandfathers had before him. What do you think this
means for tradition-based cultures like the one in Darfur? How has
change of this kind happened in your own area, and what effect has
9. Paul Salopek and Daoud have a complex relationship. Describe
how they work together to help each other and Ali. Both Daoud and
Paul have the opportunity to separate themselves from each other in
captivity, which would have bettered each of their chances for
survival. What would you have done in such a situation?
10. How does Daoud's concept of family change throughout the
book? How is it redefined and enlarged? What role does his time in
the various prisons play in this transformation?
11. Daoud is constantly breaking the rules for what he sees as a
higher good. How does this relate to your life? How are you willing
to break the rules and suffer the consequences in order to serve
your higher values? How far would you go in order to pursue your
12. What are some of the ways in which Daoud deals with the
emotional stress of Darfur's horrors? How does this differ from the
ways in which you would deal with such trauma? How does our culture
tell us to deal with trauma? Is a horrific news story played over
and over on TV - for example, the attack on the World Trade Center
- therapeutic as a way for our nation to share and understand this
horror, or is it hurtful rather than helpful?