Saturday, 17 August 2013

Book #50 The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Rian Malan

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Length Of Time In Possession : 1 day

My Traitor's Heart, by Rian Malan is the single best autobiography I've ever read. It's stunning. I had never seen any further work by Rian Malan for sale until I spotted The Lion Sleeps Tonight in Waterstones about a month ago. I couldn't afford to buy it at that moment, and as luck would have it, saw it in my library two days ago.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight is a collection of essays and articles that Malan has written for various publications including The Spectator since My Traitor's Heart came out 23 years ago.

These articles cover a range of topics from the titular story which is a reference to the famous song by The Tokens but was actually written by a South African Zulu who received no recompense, to articles about Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, the Miss World Competition, the film Invictus,  and Winnie Mandela.

By far the most fascinating of these are two articles written about the problem of AIDS in Africa. Malan, not a fan of Thabo Mbeki, is offered a chance to mock his AIDS denying stance by the magazine Rolling Stone, and jumps on it, but as he engages in his research he discovers that the globally accepted AIDS statistics and the actual picture do not match up.

Malan has always been an interesting character, owing to his descendancy from one of the main architects of Apartheid - Daniel Malan. At times he is a pessimist, prophesising a forthcoming ethnic cleansing in South Africa and at times he seems overtly racist referring affirmatively in one instance to Ian Smith's remarks about the future of Rhodesia. Malan's openly acknowledged and honest struggle against the racist indoctrination of his past is one of the things which makes his voice such a unique one to hear.      

In spite of these issues, his perspectives from the "other side of the colour divide" are consistently fascinating as is the picture he builds of the modern post-Apartheid, struggling and confused, yet weathering it out nation.

I have always enjoyed anything about Africa and this collection is well worth a read.

Verdict : 8/10

Destination : Return To Library

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