Namwali Serpell's remarkable book The Old Drift tells a complex and utterly captivating story about Zambia's history and the various people who have shaped it.
The novel unfolds over the span of more than a century, starting with the development of a colonial settlement in 1904 and ending with a world that is both terrifying and hopeful.
The novel's structure is unique and masterfully executed. It is divided into three parts, each of which is narrated by a different character.
The first part, narrated by a British colonial explorer, sets the stage for the novel's themes and provides a glimpse into the early days of colonization in Zambia.
The second part, narrated by a Zambian woman, focuses on the country's struggle for independence and its aftermath.
The final part, narrated by a third-generation Zambian, explores the impact of globalisation and the technological revolution on Zambia.
Rich and lyrical
Serpell's prose is rich and lyrical, evocative of the African landscape and its people. She masterfully blends together elements of magical realism, science fiction, and historical fiction to create a narrative that is both fantastical and grounded in reality. The novel's characters are complex and fully realised, each with their own motivations, desires, and struggles.
One of the most impressive aspects of The Old Drift is the way in which Serpell handles the novel's various themes.
The novel explores issues such as race, gender, politics, and identity in a way that is nuanced and thought-provoking. Serpell does not shy away from difficult topics, and the result is a novel that is both challenging and rewarding.
The Old Drift is a stunning novel that deserves to be widely read and celebrated. Namwali Serpell is a gifted writer with a unique voice, and her novel is a testament to the power of storytelling to illuminate the complexities of history and society.
Ahmad Nazir is a UAE-based freelancer writer