Malan’s new book Resident Alien is a collection of the best of his writings that have appeared in the likes of The New Yorker, Rolling Stone and Esquire, since My Traitor’s Heart.
On November 10th, Rian Malan launched a collection of journalism under the title Resident Alien, his first book since My Traitor’s Heart was published in 1990. The collection, quite simply, is outstandingly good. It was also supposed to be Malan’s last word on inflated Aids stats. Quite simply, it wasn’t.
When Rian Malan emails group missives to his friends about Aids statistics, as he does from time to time, he titles them something like, “Return of the Aids bore”. The first one I received was in late 2007, and the contents included an update from the United Nations on infection numbers in Africa, which had recently been revised so significantly downwards that mainstream media were too dumbstruck to comment. Of course Malan, ever true to character, was not casting his lot in with mainstream media. He had committed the better part of a decade to uncovering the truth about the disease, had been vilified by activists and denialists alike, had even lost a marriage because of his self-proclaimed “addiction,” and now the numbers were bearing his theories out. Ask yourself: would you have kept quiet?
It’s no coincidence that the core of Resident Alien, Malan’s new journalism collection and his first book since 1990’s My Traitor’s Heart, is dedicated to a topic that for many readers did irreparable harm to his reputation. Resident Alien’s middle forty pages are the writer’s transparent response to those who scornfully dismissed him, his final and comprehensive full-stop on a subject that began with a commission from Rolling Stone magazine in early 2000 – the brief: to write about Thabo Mbeki’s descent into Aids madness.
As such, Malan reveals an important secret in the postscript that bisects these pages. The piece that was delivered in December 2000 to that venerable San Francisco-based publication – the journal that was “made by” and in turn “made” Hunter S. Thompson – was not what founder Jann Wenner or editor Bill Tonelli had in mind. Malan, you see, had written the two gentlemen a letter that opened with the endearing salutation, “Yo Bill”. It ran to almost 10,000 words, and ended with the following: “So what’s the right policy? The answer, as always, lies in Africa’s Aids estimates – 16 million dead, last time I checked, and the toll rising daily. – Review by Daily Maverick
Condition. Used, a good copy, firm, no lose pages, no bends or cracks on the covers or spine, a good reading copy