Just finished reading these two. Both are well worth reading.
- The Translator: A Memoir by Daoud Hari – (Publishers’ Weekly) “Unique,” a word avoided by most journalists, is just the first to describe this heart-stopping memoir, written by a native Darfuri translator who, after escaping the massacre of his village by the genocidal Janjaweed, returned to work with reporters and UN investigators in the riskiest of situations. Taking readers far from their comfort zones, Hari charts the horrific landscape of genocide in the stories of refugee camp survivors: “It is interesting how many ways there are for people to be hurt and killed, and for villages to be terrorized and burned… I would say that these ways to die and suffer are unspeakable, and yet they were spoken: we interviewed 1,134 human beings over the next weeks.” Danger is rampant, especially at border crossings, and the effect on outsiders is profound: “Some of the BBC people had to return to Chad, where they were in a medical clinic for three days to recover from what they saw, and smelled, and learned.” Homey facts about the loyalty of camels, the pecking order in villages and vast family networks bring respite from more dire tales, including Hari’s long, multi-site imprisonment with a U.S. journalist and their Chadian driver. The captives’ endurance through uncertainty and torture is unbelievable, and their eventual rescue reads like James Bond by way of boldface politicos like recent presidential contender Bill Richardson. Throughout, Hari demonstrates almost incomprehensible decency; those with the courage to join Hari’s odyssey may find this a life-changing read. A helpful appendix provides a primer on the Darfur situation.
- Me Against My Brother: At War in Somalia, Sudan and Rwanda by Scott Peterson – (Publishers Weekly) Peterson files this report from the front lines of three of Africa’s most virulent wars of the 1990s. It has the immediacy and vividness of eyewitness testimony, because Peterson, who was reporting from Africa for London’s Daily Telegraph, was present at the scenes of battle, recording his impressions as the carnage went forward. His reporting is visceral and close to the ground: “in the dust and the sweat, and the laughter mixed with misery that permeates the flavor of war in Africa.” In Somalia, he observed how clan hatreds, combined with grossly excessive arms shipments from the developed nations, resulted in an explosion of anarchy and violence. The U.S. comes in for a substantial share of blame for its ill-considered, violent and ultimately disastrous intervention. In the Sudan, Peterson witnessed what he calls an apocalyptic civil war in which neither side was strong enough to win or weak enough to lose. Rwanda was even worse; at the height of the Hutu war of extermination against the Tutsis, one murder took place about every two seconds for an entire month. In his firsthand account of these genocidal conflicts, Peterson neither flinches from the appalling bloodshed nor closes his mind to the many scenes of generosity and honorable conduct he also witnessed. The author’s purpose is made clear in the book’s introduction: the catastrophic wars of Africa, “largely unrecorded, …require exploring for what they tell us about the human capacity to conduct evil, and also to survive it.” With tribal, ethnic and religious conflicts now so pervasive, the lessons Peterson communicates about Africa should claim the attention of everyone trying to make sense of today’s world.