TITLE: Resident Alien

TITLE: Resident Alien

AUTHOR: Rian Malan

PUBLISHER: Jonathan Bell

REVIEWER: Namhla Tshisela

RESIDENT Alien was my introduction to the wonder that is Rian Malan.

It is a collection of 27 pieces that have appeared in various publications.

Having read his latest book made me hanker for his acclaimed My Traitor's Heart, published in 1990.

Malan's writing is engaging, argumentative and impassioned. One might not agree with his opinions but would respect them because they are well informed.

He writes beautifully about Solomon Linda, who penned Mbube, a song that has taken many forms since its inception in 1939 and became one of the most recognisable melodies.

He tracks the metamorphosis of the song and how from the belly of Africa it seeped into all the corners of the world.

"Mbube wasn't the most remarkable tune, but there was something terribly compelling about the underlying chant, a dense meshing of low male voices about which Linda yodelled and howled for two minutes, mostly making it up as he went along," he writes.

He writes intensely about the suffering of Linda and his family's struggle to get their piece of the pie.

Malan tackles sensitive and often controversial issues fearlessly, including racial identity, HIV-Aids and the politics of South Africa.

His illustration of characters and complex and multi-dimensional should be commended, and in the words of Lin Sampson for "always see(ing) the story when others had long since lost the plot".