The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Overview

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 ...

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The Lion Sleeps Tonight

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[Malan is] a master storyteller, with a gift for conjuring a sense of place and an ear for engaging dialogue. . . . His best stories take you places you have never been and introduce you to characters who in lesser hands would be caricatures. . . . Malan captures the tension between hope and despair as few others have.”—The New York Review of Books

“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. . . . The dominant voice in a Malan story is his own wonder at the beauty, chaos and paradoxes of his continent. . . . Malan is one of the finest nonfiction writers alive, and American readers should treasure this chance to get to know him again.”—The Wall Street Journal

“[The Lion Sleeps Tonight] reflects the chaos, hope, and amazing stories since the end of apartheid. . . . brilliant writing on everything from the origins of the ‘Lion King’ theme song to Mbeki’s legacy—and how he blew it on AIDs. . . . Malan’s new collection spans the years between 1994 and 2008, when South Africa oscillated between the extremes of “terror and ecstasy,” sometimes in the same week, as it lurched into its brave new world. Malan’s essays capture the transition in all its dysfunction and glory. . . . It’s a dizzying ride, one on which Malan serves as an expert, if somewhat curmudgeonly, guide. . . . a devilishly talented writer and storyteller.”—The Daily Beast

"Top-shelf writing . . . the pages of his book begin to seem like a path strewn with rose petals."—Bookforum

“Malan is a great storyteller and sometime polemicist . . . a consistently vivid, energetic writer. It’s hard not to keep reading The Lion Sleeps Tonight once you've started, and even when you’re done you're likely to page back through the book in case there's something you missed.”—The Mail and Guardian (South Africa)

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight, quite simply, is outstandingly good.”—The Daily Maverick (South Africa)

“Malan is, as I think most South Africans know, an absolutely remarkable writer—perhaps one of the best writers and commentators in the world.”—The Daily Dispatch (South Africa)

“Cynical, lively and, above all, opinionated. . . . [The Lion Sleeps Tonight] provides a fascinating glimpse of post-apartheid South Africa.”—The Sunday Times (UK)

“[A] startling collection of essays. . . . South Africa should treasure Malan, but it won’t. One suspects that he wouldn’t have it any other way.”—The Sunday Times (UK)

“[Malan] is not interested in generalizations, or political theories, or rosy speculation, or myths, or race theory, but in simple justice. . . . Malan is South Africa’s Christopher Hitchens, similarly touched with genius.”—The Daily Telegraph

“Malan’s sardonic narration offers a succinct picture of South Africa today.” —Irish Examiner

“A book ripe with horrors. But also—and you can feel the astonishment in his words when he says as much—strange new moments of hope. . . . Animated by anger and a savage irony, yet always controlled, clear and readable.”—Sunday Herald (UK)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802119902
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/6/2012
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,407,770
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

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.
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Table of Contents

Foreword ix

1 Politics 1

The Last Afrikaner 3

Invictus 23

Season of the Leopard 30

Report from Planet Mbeki 45

2 Culture 55

In the Jungle 57

The Beautiful and the Damned 87

Great White Hyena 100

Jewish Blues in Darkest Africa 108

3 Disease 117

The Body Count 119

Among the AIDS Fanatics 151

4 Truth 165

A Truth of Sorts 167

The Queen 176

A Question of Spin 183

5 Light 207

The Apocalypse that Wasn't 209

The People's Republic of Yeoville 215

6 Darkness 227

House for Sale in Doomed Country 229

Ugly Scenes in Boer Provence 235

Nemesis 242

Messiah of the Potato Fields 274

7 Mutations 287

Did You Hear the One About Apartheid? 289

Those Fabulous Alcock Boys 296

Postscript 313

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