“The Places Where Things Blur”: Namwalli Serpell on “The Old Drift”
April 30, 2020
In writing what she wryly calls “the Great Zambian Novel you didn’t know you were waiting for,” Namwali Serpell weaves three separate family timelines—and, stunningly, multiple genres—into a mesmerizing whole. Dwight Garner praises Serpell’s The Old Drift as “a dazzling book, as ambitious as any first novel published this decade. It made the skin on the back of my neck prickle.” The novel has been awarded the Windham-Campbell Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Los AngelesTimes’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction.
On Friday, September 20, 2019—at the new McNally Jackson bookstore in South Street Seaport—Serpell sat down with Sharon Marcus, editor in chief of Public Books, to speak about The Old Drift. They discussed Afrofuturism and AIDS, Victoria Falls and deviant bodies, whether Serpell hears characters in her head, and whether she sides with robots against humans.