566pp., paperback, Reprint, London, (2019) 2020
An epic novel about a cycle of retribution between three Zambian families.
"Extraordinary, ambitious, evocative…The Old Drift is an impressive book, ranging skillfully between historical and science fiction, shifting gears between political argument, psychological realism and rich fabulism… dazzling debut, establishing Namwali Serpell as a writer on the world stage." Salman Rushdie, New York Times Book Review
"The Old Drift is, to me, the great African novel of the twenty-first century. The scale, the characters, the polish and lyricism of the passages all conspire to tell an unforgettable tale. At last, a book that acknowledges that the African lives with the fantastic and mundane. At last, an African book of unarguable universality. Namwali Serpell has created something specifically Zambian and generally African at the same time. The Old Drift is everything fiction should be, and everything those of us who write should aspire to" Tade Thompson, chair of judges of the Arthur C. Clark Award 2020
"This mesmerizing début novel tells the history of Zambia through three families whose lives - and blood - commingle across more than a century. The narrative is long and dense, but it rarely drags, thanks to Serpell’s eclectic blending of literary traditions, from the Victorian novel to magical realism and Afrofuturism. The revolving cast is full of striking characters...Serpell’s master storytelling may provide a remedy to a problem remarked on by one character: 'that most Westerners don’t even know whereabouts in Africa we are'.” New Yorker
Namwali Serpell is a Zambian writer who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award for women writers in 2011. She won the 2015 Caine Prize for her story 'The Sack'. The Old Drift is her first novel.