by The Lion Sleeps Tonight - £9.99 Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press (2014)
paperback ISBN 13: 9781611855838 | ISBN 10: 1611855837
Since its original publication twenty years ago, Rian Malan’s classic work of narrative nonfiction, My Traitor’s Heart, has earned its author comparisons to masters of literary nonfiction like Michael Herr and Ryszard Kapu´sci´nski, and he has been called “South Africa’s Hunter S. Thompson” by London’s Times. In that book, Malan told the story of South Africa through his search into his family’s four-hundred-year history and his own tortuous attempts to come to terms with race and with the terrible ways black and white South Africans killed each other.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight is Malan’s remarkable chronicle of South Africa’s halting, sometimes violent, steps and missteps, taken as blacks and whites try to build a new country. The collection comprises twenty-one pieces; the title story investigates the provenance of the world famous song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” which Malan traces back to a Zulu singer named Solomon Linda who recorded a song called “Mbube” in the 1930s, which went on to be covered by Pete Seeger, REM, and Phish, and was incorporated into the musical The Lion King. In other essays, Malan follows the trial of Winnie Mandela; he writes about the last Afrikaner, an old Boer woman who, as a child, trekked north into Tanzania and settled on the slopes of Mount Meru; he plunges into the explosive controversy over President Mbeki’s AIDS policies of the 1990s; and finally he brings the book full circle with the story of fabulous Alcock brothers (sons of Neil and Creina whose heartbreaking story was told in My Traitor’s Heart), two young white South Africans raised among the Zulu and fluent in their language and customs. The stories, combined with Malan’s sardonic interstitial commentary, offer a brilliantly observed portrait of contemporary South Africa.
(Price & availability last checked: February 2020)