Namwali Serpell on "The Sack"

In this program we talk with Namwali Serpell, author of “The Sack,” a dark marvel of a short story that was recently named the winner of the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing.  

“The Sack” is a short story that dazzles, intrigues, and unsettles in equal measure. Novelist Zoe Wicomb, the chair of the Caine Prize committee, called it “formally innovative, stylistically stunning, haunting and enigmatic in its effects.” At Chapter & Verse we'd be so bold as to predict that “The Sack” will, in the coming decades, find more readers and become a 'classic’ of the short story form: it’s that compelling and that mysteriously wrought.

Namwali Serpell is a writer and critic who currently teaches at UC Berkeley, where she is an associate professor of English. Serpell has published her fiction widely—in McSweeney’s, Tin House, and n+1, among other venuesand is currently working on a new novel with the title The Old Drift.

Her work as a literary critic centers around questions of aesthetics, affect, and ethics — how we read and what the experience of reading delivers to us — and she has recently published the ground-breaking Seven Modes of Uncertainty, which considers how and why so much of modern fiction seeks to perplex the reader.

Resources for this episode

Namwali Serpell, "The Sack" (2015)

Music used in the episode

Blue Dot Sessions, "Jackbird" (license) and "Front Runner" (license)

Bells Atlas, "Untitled," from Bells Atlas (2013)