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. 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.
“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 NANSUBUGA MAKUMBI, author of Kintu
“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
NAMWALI SERPELL was born in Lusaka, Zambia. She is associate professor of English at UC Berkeley. The Old Drift
is her first novel.