Foreign correspondents get all the glory for their dispatches from the front lines. Yet in all hotspots, the hacks’ efforts are almost always assisted, filtered or manipulated by locals employed as fixers or translators. These guides might be upright folk or journalists in their own right, or they might be cunning crooks like Paleologue in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. In my experience, the best fixers are magicians: they procure the impossible, whether it’s access to contacts and stories, or supplies of booze in a desert ruled by fanatics. They are also the best company. I have come to regard several fixers as my dearest friends to whom I owe my life. Most of these unsung heroes stay behind in hell long after the stories go cold and the hacks have moved on. A very few are helped by correspondents to get asylum in the West.
Daoud Hari is such a man, and The Translator is his testament about the war in his native Darfur, ghostwritten by his rescuers. That the book is narrated by him should make this a powerful story. Usually the correspondents would take the credit and Daoud would appear as the walk-on