The Old Drift

The Old Drift

A Novel

eBook - 2019 | First edition.
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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. The tale? A playful panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction. The moral? To err is human.
Publisher: New York :, Hogarth, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group,, [2019]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781101907160
1101907169
1101907142
9781101907146
9781781090497
1781090491
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Summary: 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. The tale? A playful panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction. The moral? To err is human.

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l_d_anderson
Apr 26, 2021

A multi-generation, multi-ethnic story set in Zambia from 1903-ish to 2023. Characters are flawed (the first one is rather unlikeable); people fall in love, fall out of love, struggle, and parent (sometimes poorly). It's also about mosquitos.
The author has some wonderful turns of phrase, and I read a some sentences out loud to enjoy them better. I learned some things about another part of the world, which is one of my favorite things in a book.
The library categorized this as Afrofuturism. For the first 480 pages, the fantastical element comes in with a vaguely identified entity ("the swarm") acting as a Greek chorus, a woman covered with hair which can grow to her own height overnight, and another woman who cries every minute she's awake. About 3/4 of the way through, near-future science fiction technology - microdrones and the Digit-All bead - is introduced. The Digit-All Bead is essentially a smartphone which is light and flexible enough to be implanted in a person's hand. Everyone wants one, and they're being offered for free. This does not go well.
This was an excellent book, and I need to read it a few more times to properly appreciate its beauty and complexity.

b
bonster1026
Apr 04, 2021

Serpell, born in Zambia, currently a Harvard professor of English, sets new standards for telling the truth through fiction. Her first book is a historical, political, biological, technological, fantasy, a saga of three generations, White, Black, Italian—and more, who experience Zambia.

I envy anyone who is about to read this outstanding book for the first time.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Jun 15, 2020

A Zambian author deconstructs colonialism in this fascinating novel. Fans of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children and the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez will find stylistic similarities in this generation-spanning work of magical realism, complete with a Greek chorus of mosquito's narrating intercalary chapters.

m
mllmerritt1992
Mar 31, 2020

The Old Drift is an ambitious historical fiction novel, but Namwali Serpell is a gifted alchemist and her debut brews up a combination of characters and events that pulls you through a century of familial growth and conflict. The epochal chapter introduces Percy Clark and his arrival in Zambia. Clark sets in motion a course of events that defines three central families and ropes the large cast of characters together through the decades. Serpell’s sweeping narrative follows her quirky and authentic creations as they meet one another and grow. It is evident that Serpell enjoys creating unusual characters such as the hair covered Sibilla, the blind ex-tennis star Agnes, or Matha, the woman who shed a million tears. As Serpell weaves her intricately plotted novel through time, love affairs abound, and we see generations engage in cultural and technological changes. The novels chapters are interspersed with narrations of the “Swarm,” an omnipresent being who comments on the changes in Zambia and the resulting families’ actions. The Old Drift crawls through history but firmly plants the reader within the family until you are unable to leave your kin.

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