The Furrows: A Novel Hardcover by Namwali Serpell

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The Furrows: A Novel Hardcover by Namwali Serpell

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Tags: Fiction, Literary

Product Details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Hogarth (Sept. 27 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 288 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 059344891X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 9780593448915
  • Item weight ‏ : ‎ 431 g
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 14.55 x 2.46 x 21.67 cm

1. The subtitle of The Furrows is “An Elegy.” The word elegy, from the Greek, means “a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead.” Why do you think the author chose to define her novel in such a way? And what effect did it have on you, the reader?

2. “You were alone out there,” the narrator says of her lost brother, “and the world took you back in, reclaimed you into its endless folding.” Discuss the ways in which the novel tells the story of not only Wayne’s loss but his reemergence throughout the course of C’s life.

3. In telling her story, C says to the reader: “I don’t want to tell you what happened. I want to tell you how it felt.” What did she mean by that? What did you feel while reading C’s story? Does a storyteller need concrete facts to convey narrative truth? Why or why not?

4. Namwali Serpell uses inventive, even dreamy prose to bring the world of The Furrows to life. How, if at all, did the author’s writing style contribute to your reading experience? What literary devices did she employ—and to what effect?

5. C describes meeting a man who shares her brother’s name as some sort of “deep atavistic déjà vu.” What does she mean to suggest about this brand-new yet bone-deep familiarity with this other Wayne? How does this notion of déjà vu apply to the story that Will tells from prison?

6. How does the author’s use of repetition—the “endless folding” as noted in question #2—contribute to our overall understanding of what is real in the world of this novel versus what is perceived as personal truth?

7. Take a moment to revisit the novel’s epigraph, from Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. “People do not die for us immediately . . . they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive.” Talk about why the author might have chosen this particular passage from Proust—about how the dead remain immortal in our hearts—and its thematic relevance to The Furrows.

8. If you had the chance to ask Namwali Serpell one question about The Furrows—about her inspiration, the writing process, or the plot—what might it be?

About Author

Namwali Serpell was born in Lusaka and lives in New York. She received a 2020 Windham-Campbell Prize, the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing, and a 2011 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. Her debut novel, The Old Drift, won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction, and the Los Angeles Times’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction; it was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2019 by the New York Times Book Review andone of Time’s 100 Must-Read Books of the Year. Her nonfiction book, Stranger Faces, was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. She is a professor of English at Harvard.

Author Residence: New York, NY

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