Monday, April 07, 2008


My friend Ben invited me to meet author Daoud Hari at a little event last week as he was passing through Toronto to promote this extraordinary book. He is shy, soft-spoken and sweet-natured--all the more remarkable when you read about his life in Darfur.

The book opens with the African proverb: "If God must break your leg He will at least teach you to limp." Hari's resilience throughout his harrowing journey is astonishing and he unfolds his tale in a matter-of-fact, direct and distinctly unpitying way. Take for example his reflection about not being killed (something that happens repeatedly): "To not get killed is a very good thing. It makes you smile again and again, foolishly, helplessly for several hours," or his understanding of camels: "A camel, by the way can be away from its human family or camel family for twenty years and still know them very well when somehow it comes back. Camels are completely loyal and full of love and courage."

Or what about his comment: "It says everything about this land to know that even the mountains are not to be trusted, and that the crunching sound under your camel's hooves is usually human bones, hidden and revealed as the wind pleases."

That this man is still hopeful about humanity is what is most moving when you consider his experience in burying his brother Ahmed after an attack on their village where Ahmed stayed behind to defend with other young men, similarly slaughtered: " I found Ahmed. The effects of large caliber weapons and perhaps an RPG round were such that I barely recognized his body. I dug a grave as we do, so that he would rest on his right side with his face to the east. I put the pieces of this great fellow in the deep sand forever."

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