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by Serpell, Namwali

This is the first novel ever to tell the story of Zambia from its very beginnings to the present day and beyond. Crossing centuries, borders, and genres, this electrifying debut tells a sweeping tale of a small African country, its origins and the trials and tribulations of its people.

It starts at the majestic Victoria Falls, where there was once a colonial settlement called the Old Drift. In 1904, in the smoky dining room of the Victoria Falls Hotel, a fever-addled British settler makes a mistake that entangles his family's fate with those of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. As this error ripples over the centuries, the lives of these families keep converging. We meet characters like a girl covered from head to toe in hair, a blind tennis player with eye-riddled skin, a woman whose tears seem endless, and a group of Afronauts who try to join the Space Race. The novel crescendos with a love story and a political protest in a brilliantly imagined Africa of the near future, filled with homegrown technological marvels from microdrones to viral vaccines.

With playful language, Serpell masterfully blends historical fiction, fairy-tale fables, romance, and science fiction. On each page, she turns stereotypes and tropes on their heads, unsettling the stories we think we know about Africa, from colonialism to migration, gender to race, poverty to politics, and nationhood to technology. Through THE OLD DRIFT's cast of vivid charactersincluding Zambia, which proves to be a character itselfSerpell shows that, if to err is human, then even the slightest error can still be a powerful force for transformation. Incisive, expansive, and subversive, THE OLD DRIFT announces Namwali Serpell as a major new literary talent.

NAMWALI SERPELL is a Zambian writer who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. She won the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing for her story "The Sack." She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award for women writers in 2011 and was selected for the Africa39, a 2014 Hay Festival project to identify the best African writers under forty. Her first published story, "Muzungu," was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2009 and shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in the New Yorker, McSweeney's, The Believer, Tin House, Triple Canopy, Callaloo, n+1, Cabinet, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian, and the New York Review of Books.

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UK: Hogarth UK ; Netherlands: Atlas Contact

Quote: Crown

"If, as she writes, 'history is the annals of the bully on the playground,' then in The Old Drift, Namwali Serpell wreaks havoc on the Zambian annals by rewriting the past, creating a new present, and conjuring an alternative future. In refusing to be bound by genre, Serpell is audacious and shrewd. This is a Zambian history of pain and exploitation, trial and error, and hope and triumph.

Quote: Jennifer Makumbi, author if Kintu

An astonishing novel, a riot for the senses, filled with the music and scents and sensations of Zambia. Namwali Serpell writes about people, land, and longing with such compassionate humor and precision. There's an old wisdom in these pages. In short, make room on your shelf next to a few of your other favorites: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Edwidge Danticat jump to mind. It's brilliant. This woman was born to write!

Quote: Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight

The Old Drift is an extraordinary meditation on identity, the history of a nation, love, politics, family, friendship, and life. Serpell's prose is dazzling. Darting back and forth through the decades and mixing different genres, Serpell has delivered an original, remarkable, magical work that both delights and challenges.

Quote: Chika Unigwe, author of On Black Sisters Street and Night Dancer

From the poetry and subtle humor constantly alive in its language, to the cast of fulsome characters that defy simple categorization, The Old Drift is a novel that satisfies on all levels. Namwali Serpell excels in creating portraits of resilience - each unique and often heartbreaking. In The Old Drift the individual struggle is cast against a world of shifting principles and politics, and Serpell captures the quicksand nature of a nation's roiling change with exacting precision. My only regret is that once begun, I reached the end all too soon.

Quote: Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones

In turns charming, heartbreaking, and breathtaking, The Old Drift is a staggeringly ambitious, genre-busting multigenerational saga with moxie for days. . . . I wanted it to go on forever. A worthy heir to Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Quote: Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties

It's difficult to think of another novel that is at once so sweepingly ambitious and so intricately patterned, delivering the pleasures of saga and poetry in equal measure. The Old Drift is an endlessly innovative, voraciously brilliant book, and Namwali Serpell is among the most distinctive and exciting writers to emerge in years.

Quote: Garth Greenbwell, author of What Belongs to You

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