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The Old Drift (Digital Audiobook)

A Novel

By Namwali Serpell, Adjoa Andoh (Narrator), Richard E. Grant (Narrator), Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Narrator)

Publication Date: April 1, 2019

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (5/5/2020)
Hardcover (3/26/2019)


“A dazzling debut, establishing Namwali Serpell as a writer on the world stage.”—Salman Rushdie, The New York Times Book Review
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Dwight Garner, The New York Times • The New York Times Book Review • Time • NPR • The Atlantic • BuzzFeed • Tordotcom Kirkus Reviews BookPage

WINNER OF: The Arthur C. Clarke Award • The Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award • The Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction • The Windham-Campbell Prizes for Fiction

1904. On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there is a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. 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 the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives—their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes—emerge through a panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction.

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, this gripping, unforgettable novel is a testament to our yearning to create and cross borders, and a meditation on the slow, grand passage of time.
Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Ray Bradbury Prize • Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

“An intimate, brainy, gleaming epic . . . This is a dazzling book, as ambitious as any first novel published this decade.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
A founding epic in the vein of Virgil’s Aeneid . . . though in its sprawling size, its flavor of picaresque comedy and its fusion of family lore with national politics it more resembles Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A story that intertwines strangers into families, which we'll follow for a century, magic into everyday moments, and the story of a nation, Zambia.”—NPR

About the Author

NAMWALI SERPELL was born in Zambia in 1980 and now lives in California, where she is associate professor of English at UC Berkeley. Her writing has been featured in publications including Tin House, n + 1, McSweeney's, The Believer, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Guardian. In 2011, Serpell received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award for women writers, and in 2014 she was selected as one of the Africa 39, a Hay Festival Project to identify the 39 best African writers under 40. Serpell's first published short story, "Muzungu," was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2009 and anthologized in The Uncanny Reader. She was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing for "Muzungu" in 2010, and won the Caine Prize for her story "The Sack" in 2015.