H O G A R T H   P R E S S   |   M A R C H  26 ,  2 0 1 9 

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It sounds like

a sentence: Victoria Falls.

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.

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. This error sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between these three Zambian families, as they continually collide over the course of the century, into the present, and beyond.

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 – THE OLD DRIFT is a gripping, unforgettable debut novel.


Advance Praise for the old Drift

 

“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.”

—CARMEN MARIA MACHADO, author of Her Body and Other Parties

 

“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, author of The Lovely Bones

 

“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!”

—ALEXANDRA FULLER, author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight

 

“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.”

—GARTH GREENWELL, author of What Belongs to You

 

“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.”

—JENNIFER MAKUMBI, author of Kintu

 

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, Namwali has delivered an original, remarkable, magical work that both delights and challenges.”

—CHIKA UNIGWE, author of On Black Sisters’ Street and Night Dancer

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.”

—FIONA MCFARLANE, author of The Night Guest and The High Places


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Image of the Old Drift © Peter Roberts