A MURMUR OF BEES by Sofia Segovia [Translated by Simon Bruni]
THE OLD DRIFT by Namwali Serpell
If you are a fan of the Russian epic, magical realism, or historical and/or geopolitical fiction, these two new novels incorporate the best of those forms. Great storytelling with a solid dose of magical realism or cultural realism and a rich line-up of characters.
|Debut Novelist Namwali Serpell|
THE OLD DRIFT, which is Russian in scope, tells the tale of three families from Europe, Africa and India, over three periods of time, whose lives and interactions define the formation of a nation. Serpell sporadically adds a most unusual Greek-style chorus [think mosquitoes] to remind the reader that the land has existed forever, and will continue to exist, despite colonists and xenophobia, diseases, and personal and political disaster. THE OLD DRIFT is filled with Homerian journeys and heroes and a large cast of characters that will be daunting, at first, but Serpell does an excellent job grouping their stories to make it easier to follow. She begins way back, in the depth of a jungle, with Livingstone, and carries us all the way to a future ruled by drones and electronic surveillance. To be sure we recognize the epic nature of the novel, she drops in nods to Shakespeare, Milton, and Virgil, and a finale reminiscent of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The ride is fast-paced, filled with what I’m sure most of us never knew about this country, and a style of writing deceptively simple, although she goes in and out and back and forth, and because she is a masterful writer, we follow until we wonder, where does it all go and how did it get to this point? This is the story of a nation – not a kingdom or people – so it begins, of course, with a white man… That introductory colonist tells us, The worst difficulty of exploration, I learned, is that it is a tormenting isolation. There was no chumming it up with blacks, naturally. Although THE OLD DRIFT is fast-paced [despite the length] read it slowly, savor it, tell your friends. Available in hardcover or for your favorite e-reader.