The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell


A literary event from the winner of the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing, and longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.

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On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there was once a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. Here begins the epic story of a small African nation, told by a mysterious swarm-like chorus that calls itself man’s greatest nemesis. The tale? A playful panorama of history, fairytale, romance, and science fiction. The moral? To err is human.

In 1904, in a smoky room at the hotel across the river, an Old Drifter named Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives—their triumphs, errors, losses, and hopes—form a symphony about what it means to be human.

From a woman covered with hair and another plagued with endless tears to forbidden love affairs and fiery political ones to homegrown technological marvels like Afronauts, microdrones, and viral vaccines—this gripping, unforgettable novel sweeps over the years and the globe, subverting expectations along the way. Exploding with color and energy, The Old Drift is a testament to our yearning to create and cross borders and a meditation on the slow, grand passage of time.

The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell
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