Synopses & Reviews
"The past, if there is such a thing, is mostly empty space, great expanses of nothing, in which significant persons and events float. Nigeria was like that for me: mostly forgotten, except for those few things that I remembered with outsize intensity."
Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor doing his residency wanders aimlessly. The walks meet a need for Julius: they are a release from the tightly regulated mental environment of work, and they give him the opportunity to process his relationships, his recent breakup with his girlfriend, his present, his past. Though he is navigating the busy parts of town, the impression of countless faces does nothing to assuage his feelings of isolation.
But it is not only a physical landscape he covers; Julius crisscrosses social territory as well, encountering people from different cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey — which takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and into the most unrecognizable facets of his own soul.
A haunting novel about national identity, race, liberty, loss, dislocation, and surrender, Teju Cole's Open City seethes with intelligence. Written in a clear, rhythmic voice that lingers, this book is a mature, profound work by an important new author who has much to say about our country and our world.
"Possibly the only negative thing to say about Cole's intelligent and panoramic first novel is that it is a more generous account of the recent past than the era deserves. America's standing in the world is never far from the restless thoughts of psychiatry resident Julius, a Nigerian immigrant who wanders Manhattan, pondering everything from Goya and the novels of J.M. Coetzee to the bankruptcy of Tower Records and the rise of the bedbug epidemic. In other words, it is an ongoing reverie in the tradition of W.G. Sebald or Nicholson Baker, but with the welcome interruptions of the friends and strangers Julius meets as he wanders Penn Station, the Upper West Side, and Brussels during a short holiday, and amid discussions of Alexander Hamilton, black identity, and the far left — a truly American novel emerges. Julius pines over a recent ex, mourns the death of a friend, goes to movies, concerts, and museums, but above all he ruminates, and the picture of a mind that emerges in lieu of a plot is fascinating, as it is engaged with the world in a rare and refreshing way. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Open City is a meditation on history and culture, identity and solitude. The soft, exquisite rhythms of its prose, the display of sensibility, the lucid intelligence, make it a novel to savour and treasure." Colm Toibin, author of The Master and Brooklyn
"The pages of Open City unfold with the tempo of a profound, contemplative walk through layers of histories and their posthumous excavations. The juxtaposition of encounters, seen through the eyes of a knowing flaneur, surface and then dissolve like a palimpsest composed, outside of time, by a brilliant master." Rawi Hage, author of Cockroach and De Niro's Game, winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
"Open City is not a loud novel, nor a thriller, nor a nail-biter. What it is is a gorgeous, crystalline, and cumulative investigation of memory, identity, and erasure. It gathers its power inexorably, page by page, and ultimately reveals itself as nothing less than a searing tour de force. Teju Cole might just be a W. G. Sebald for the twenty-first century." Anthony Doerr, author of The Shell Collector
"One of the most intriguing novels you'll likely read...[it] reads like Camus's The Stranger." Library Journal
"Masterful." Kirkus (Starred Review)
About the Author
Teju Cole was raised in Nigeria and came to the United States in 1992. He is a writer, photographer, and professional historian of early Netherlandish art. Open City is his first novel. He lives in New York City.
Review A Day
"Teju Cole's second novel builds on the promise of his first (Every Day is for the Thief
, Cassava Republic, 2007). Here, as in his elegant debut, which was set largely in Lagos, Nigeria, a circumspect walker explores both the visible and invisible aspects of the cities he is drawn to. The scale of Open City
, which moves from New York to Brussels to Lagos (and a Nigerian military boarding school), is greater than its more compressed predecessor though, and the central questions of what it means to live strung between past and present, geography and desire, the known and the unknowable are more richly and complicatedly posed." Laird Hunt, Rain Taxi
(Read the entire Rain Taxi review