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The Old Drift

Namwali Serpell

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Vintage
31 March 2020
Fiction & Literature; Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945); Sagas
'Extraordinary, ambitious, evocative, dazzling' SALMAN RUSHDIE 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.

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 his fate with those of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy.

So begins a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond.

'Brilliant . . . heartbreaking' Sunday Times 'Electric . . . Serpell is a major talent' Financial Times 'A novel that satisfies on all levels' Alice Sebold 'Charming, heartbreaking and breathtaking' Carmen Maria Machado Longlisted for the Debut Crown Historical Writers Association Award 2019 Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize 2019
By:   Namwali Serpell
Imprint:   Vintage
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm,  Spine: 34mm
Weight:   453g
ISBN:   9781784703998
ISBN 10:   1784703990
Pages:   576
Publication Date:   31 March 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

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 and was selected for the Africa 39, a 2014 Hay Festival project to identify the best African writers under 40. Her first published story, 'Muzungu', was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2009 and shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize for African writing. She won the 2015 Caine Prize for her story 'The Sack'. The Old Drift is her first novel.

Reviews for The Old Drift

An impressive first novel... The Old Drift is electric with the sense that Serpell is laying down pieces in a puzzle kept teasingly out of sight... A growing sense that The Old Drift could go on for ever is tribute to its inventiveness -- Anthony Cummins * Observer * 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 -- Alice Sebold An intimate, brainy, gleaming epic... The reader who picks up The Old Drift is likely to be more than simply impressed. This is a dazzling book, as ambitious as any first novel published this decade. It made the skin on the back of my neck prickle...she's such a generous writer. The people and the ideas in The Old Drift, like dervishes, are set whirling -- Dwight Garner * New York Times * Brilliant...there are moments of such heart-wrenching poignancy that I had to put the book down several times and recompose myself. Serpell writes with the emotional maturity and sardonic smile of one who has lived several times already -- Leaf Arbuthnot * Sunday Times * 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...a dazzling debut, establishing Namwali Serpell as a writer on the world stage -- Salman Rushdie * New York Times Book Review *


  • Long-listed for HWA Crowns 2019 (UK)

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