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The Translator Reader’s Guide

By Daoud Hari

The Translator by Daoud Hari


Questions and Topics for Discussion

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 warming?

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 so, how?

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 it had?

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 ideals?

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?

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