Authors in Conversation | The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell

MoAD and Litquake present

Namwali Serpell’s electrifying debut, THE OLD DRIFT, is the first novel ever to tell the story of Zambia from its very beginnings to the present day—and beyond.

Crossing centuries, borders, and genres, THE OLD DRIFT tells a sweeping tale of a small African country as it comes into being, and the trials and tribulations of its people. Their stories, told by a mysterious swarm-like chorus that calls itself man’s greatest nemesis, form an epic meditation on what it means to be human.

With playful language, Serpell masterfully blends historical fiction, fairy-tale fables, romance, and science fiction. On each page, she turns stereotypes and tropes on their heads, unsettling the stories we think we know about Africa, from colonialism to migration, gender to race, poverty to politics, and nationhood to technology. Through THE OLD DRIFT’s cast of vivid characters—including Zambia, which proves to be a character itself—Serpell shows that, if to err is human, then even the slightest error can still be a powerful force for transformation. Incisive, expansive, and subversive, THE OLD DRIFT announces Namwali Serpell as a major new literary talent.

Namwali Serpell will be in conversation with her colleagues from the English Department at UC Berkeley, Scott Saul and Nadia Ellis.

NAMWALI SERPELL is a Zambian writer who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. She won the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing for her story “The Sack.” She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award for women writers in 2011 and was selected for the Africa39, a 2014 Hay Festival project to identify the best African writers under forty. Her first published story, “Muzungu,” was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2009 and shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in the New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Believer, Tin House, Triple CanopyCallaloo, n+1, Cabinet, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian, and the New York Review of Books.

SCOTT SAUL is the author of *Becoming Richard Pryor*, the first deeply researched biography of the comedian, and has contributed to publications such as Harper’s, The Nation, and the New York Times. He teaches American history and literature at UC Berkeley, where he is a Professor of English.

NADIA ELLIS teaches black and postcolonial literatures in the English Department at UC Berkeley and is the author of Territories of the Soul: Queered Belonging in the Black Diaspora (Duke UP, 2015).


Public programs at MoAD are supported in part by Target.

This program will include a wine reception and book signing.

Presented in partnership with Litquake