The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Rian Malan

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Malan is at his best when he finds a story that allows him to employ the full power of this instinctive reluctance to take yes for an answer. The stand-out pieces in this book...are a pair of ready-made myths from South Africa's recent history.
-Guardian

Synopsis

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 Kapuscinski.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight is Malan’s remarkable chronicle of South Africa’s halting steps and missteps, taken as blacks and whites try to build a new country. Some of the essays previously appeared in a collection published only in South Africa, Resident Alien, but others are collected here for the first time. The collection comprises twenty-three 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 stories, Malan follows the trial of Winnie Mandela and plunges into the explosive controversy over President Mbeki’s AIDS policies of the 1990s.

The stories, combined with Malan’s sardonic interstitial commentary, offer a brilliantly observed portrait of contemporary South Africa.
 

About Rian Malan

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Rian Malan was born in South Africa in 1954. He has pursued a 36-year career as a journalist in South Africa and the United States and is the author of My Traitor's Heart. He currently lives in South Africa.
 
Published November 6, 2012 by Grove Press. 338 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Lion Sleeps Tonight
All: 3 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 0

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Tim Adams on Mar 03 2013

Malan is at his best when he finds a story that allows him to employ the full power of this instinctive reluctance to take yes for an answer. The stand-out pieces in this book...are a pair of ready-made myths from South Africa's recent history.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Douglas Rogers on Dec 02 2012

"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is a collection of some 20-odd pieces of Mr. Malan's opinion, travel writing and investigative pieces. Exhibiting the same fiercely lyrical voice that made "My Traitor's Heart" so compelling, the book is a beautiful, wry, often angry account of where South Africa has been and where it is going.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Douglas Rogers on Dec 02 2012

Rian Malan is one of the finest nonfiction writers alive, and American readers should treasure this chance to get to know him again.

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