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The Old Drift par Namwali Serpell
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The Old Drift (original 2019; édition 2020)

par Namwali Serpell (Auteur)

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356854,016 (3.62)16
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.… (plus d'informations)
Membre:Estrela
Titre:The Old Drift
Auteurs:Namwali Serpell (Auteur)
Info:Vintage (2020), 512 pages
Collections:Votre bibliothèque, Africana
Évaluation:****
Mots-clés:Science Fiction

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The Old Drift par Namwali Serpell (2019)

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Affichage de 1-5 de 8 (suivant | tout afficher)
Incredibly well constructed and well written. I really wanted to like this more than I did. The setting is interesting and I am normally a fan magical realism and speculative fiction. Ultimately, I just couldn't really connect much with the characters, and had to push myself to keep going to finish. ( )
  kcaroth1 | Oct 19, 2020 |
This novel follows the increasingly intertwined relationships between three families across multiple generations in central Africa as colonialism creates Nyasaland and Rhodesia and then evolves into the independent Zimbabwe. The action begins in the late 19th century and extends through to the near future (the 2020s).

The narrative framework here is very complex with a large cast and characters that hold centre stage in one section then reappearing in a support role in later chapters, or vice verse, playing support and then becoming central to the story. Events are described multiple times, from different character viewpoints at different times in their lives; for example, a woman takes part in an event, which is later re-described from the perspective of her child when an adult.

The focus is relentlessly on the lived lives of the characters involved with references to political changes or the wider historical context intruding through asides or picked up in casual conversations. The main characters for the first two-thirds of the book are exclusively women. It is only in the last third that two male characters take centre stage.

A driving engine for the book is magical realism - coincidences too strange to be believed; character traits, both moral and physical, that are distinctly odd; the use of hair as a defining element of both unity and division. I am not convinced all of these work. The rest of the world seems to accept these oddities as normal behaviour and never give them a second thought; and some are nothing more than personal tics that do not seem to add to the flow of the story.

The ending is particularly well done with Africa as the ground zero for a radical realignment and merging of technology and nature that may dominate the world.

Very readable, but perhaps a bit too deep for me. ( )
1 voter pierthinker | Jun 22, 2020 |
Sentence by sentence Serpell is an excellent prose stylist, and I enjoyed reading this novel very much. The scenes are evocative. The dialogue frequently dazzled me with its sharpness and its ability to cut straight to the bone and tell me how to think about a given character.

For me, though, I missed a through-line. I missed a unifying theme. I have no idea what the book's about.

The novel is almost perversely disinterested in giving meaning to the lives of its characters. It's not interested in allowing them to perceive the beauty, or the ugliness, or the cosmic 'all' around them. They have spurts of feeling toward one another that fade out or grow ugly over time. Their loves and triumphs are narrow and animal, and only occasionally tragic. The author tosses her characters into a drifting river of story, but they never get anywhere--they all seem to get stuck along the banks at some point.

I don't think this book is too long. But I do think it has too many characters. Time after time I grew interested in a character only to have that character get written out of the story. Now and then a character would come back, but only hundreds of pages later, in a flurry of narrative summary that didn't satisfy me.

I just read another intergenerational book that delighted me--[b:Her Mother's Mother's Mother and Her Daughters|34552816|Her Mother's Mother's Mother and Her Daughters|Maria José Silveira|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1516393133i/34552816._SY75_.jpg|23754919]. It was also episodic and it also spanned a very long time frame. But in that book's case, the humanity and the agency of the characters moved me very much. Not so here. In The Old Drift, both the events and also the characters' reactions to events seemed passive and almost chaotically random. ( )
  poingu | Feb 22, 2020 |
Interesting book. Way too long but lovely people and interesting issues. ( )
  shazjhb | Oct 31, 2019 |
This novel is long and complex. At first, it feels like a collection of short stories, loosely connected by location - the Old Drift, a section of the Zambezi river - but over the generations all of the characters' lives become intertwined. In some ways, the book starts about 3 generations before the story actually begins, but that's because it's really a story about Zambia and colonialism more than a story about any individuals.

It reminds me a lot of Overstory: in both books, we are introduced to a bunch of characters who don't seem to have anything to do with each other, but whose stories eventually become tightly connected, and in both books, we realize in the very last pages that humans weren't really the main characters at all.

Serpell's writing is beautiful and engaging: with a less-skilled author, I would have wanted this book to be half as long, but her writing is so gorgeous, her characters so real, that I could have kept reading for another 600 pages.

Speaking of characters..... there are a lot of them. Enough that it can be hard to keep them all straight. Naturally some of them are better-developed than others, but Serpell is one of those writers who can evoke an entire person with a few sentences. Ultimately, though, the humans that are the focus of the events of the story aren't really the main characters. The story is really about Zambia and colonialism, from the racism of the first white explorers to the racism of the Chinese scientists who use Zambians as human guinea pigs for AIDS medications, to the vague outside political and technological forces who give Zambians technology just so they can control them.

The end of the book is at once exhilarating, ambitious, and a bit unsatisfying. There's a lot to chew on here, and ultimately it's hard to be sure what the reader's big takeaway should be. Then again, this book defies all genres and expectations, so that shouldn't be a surprise.

I'm going to be thinking about this book for weeks, and I can't wait for Serpell to write another novel. ( )
1 voter Gwendydd | Sep 21, 2019 |
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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.

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