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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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Part of the novel, an excerpt entitled The Sack, was just awarded this year’s Caine Prize (Namwali was shortlisted in 2010 as well)

Quote: BBC

UK: Hogarth UK ; Netherlands: Atlas Contact ; Spain: Seix Barral

Quote: Crown

...smartly composed epic... Serpell's novel is absorbing, occasionally strange, and entrenched in Zambian culture - in all, an unforgettable original.

Review: Booklist, starred review

Intricately imagined, brilliantly constructed, and staggering in its scope, this is an astonishing novel.

Review: Publishers Weekly, starred review

The Old Drift is a dazzling genre-bender of a novel, an astonishing historical and futuristic feat, a page-turner with a plot that consistently and cleverly upends itself. Playfully poetic and outright serious at once, it is one of the most intelligent debuts I've read this year. No matter your reading preference, there's something in it for you.

Quote: Chinelo Okparanta, author of Under the Udala Trees

... humane wit, vibrant rhetoric, and relentless ingenuity ... Comparisons with Gabriel García Márquez are inevitable ... unique among magical realist epics.

Review: Kirkus, starred review

"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 a "Most Anticipated of 2019 with BBC, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Literary Hub, Nylon, Bustle, Electric Literature, The Rumpus

Quote: Most Anticipated of 2019

"I Write Out Of A Sense Of Curiosity." An Interview With Namwali Serpell.

Quote: Short Story Day Africa

This inventive first novel by Serpell, a Caine Prize winner, spans two centuries in Zambian history, mixing styles from Gothic to Afrofuturist.

Review: BBC

An epic, genre-bending tale narrated by a mysterious swarm-like (potentially evil!) chorus, telling the story of a small African nation called the Old Drift and the intertwined lives and conflicts of three Zambian families. must-read... If you're looking for a gripping novel that blends fairytale, romance, and science fiction, and isn't set in the Western world, this might just be one of the most intriguing things you'll read all year.

Review: Literary Hub

Spring 2019 Announcement: "...Combining history, fairy tale, romance, and sci-fi, this debut tells the story of a small African nation as told by a strange swarmlike chorus."

Review: Publishers Weekly

This epic debut novel from Zambian author Namwali Serpell tells the story of a three families over three generations. It begins in 1904, a few miles from Victoria Falls, in a small colonial settlement called The Old Drift. But one mistake sets off a major rift between a black family, a brown family, and a white family that ripples across the next century.

Review: Bustle

...the story follows these families with beautifully human detail, all framed within an interstitial Greek chorus: the voice of a swarm of mosquitoes.

Review: Chicago Review of Books

For once, the PR is right: This really is "the Great Zambian Novel you didn't know you were waiting for." From 1904 to the near future, Serpell's story focuses on three families as they contend with a country that keeps evolving in unexpected ways...I'm certain about this one. Read it

Review: Entertainment Weekly

It's hard to believe this is a debut, so assured is its language, so ambitious its reach, and yet The Old Drift is indeed Namwali Serpell's first novel, and it signifies a great new voice in fiction. Feeling at once ancient and futuristic, The Old Drift is a genre-defying riotous work that spins a startling new creation myth for the African nation of Zambia. Serpell's voice is lucid and brilliant, and it's one we can't wait to read more of in years to come.

Review: Nylon

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

Author's article: A Sunburst Above a Receding Road: How I runed Lolita for myself...

Quote: The Believer

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

The Old Drift is a stunning achievement: a novel of epic scope and powerful vision that also manages to be intimate, tender, and very funny. A truly important debut from a brilliant new voice.

Quote: Fiona McFarlane, author of The High Places

Full of magic, history, and humor, The Old Drift will be unlike anything you've ever read.

Review: Buzzfeed

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