Synopses & Reviews
A blazingly intelligent first book of essays from the award-winning author of Open City and Every Day Is for the Thief.
With this collection of more than fifty pieces on politics, photography, travel, history, and literature, Teju Cole solidifies his place as one of today’s most powerful and original voices. On page after page, deploying prose dense with beauty and ideas, he finds fresh and potent ways to interpret art, people, and historical moments, taking in subjects from Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and W. G. Sebald to Instagram, Barack Obama, and Boko Haram. Cole brings us new considerations of James Baldwin in the age of Black Lives Matter; the African American photographer Roy DeCarava, who, forced to shoot with film calibrated exclusively for white skin tones, found his way to a startling and true depiction of black subjects; and (in an essay that inspired both praise and pushback when it first appeared) the White Savior Industrial Complex, the system by which African nations are sentimentally aided by an America "developed on pillage."
Persuasive and provocative, erudite yet accessible, Known and Strange Things is an opportunity to live within Teju Cole’s wide-ranging enthusiasms, curiosities, and passions, and a chance to see the world in surprising and affecting new frames.
"Essays pulse with the possible; the best ones gesture at unexplored territories. But they feel most satisfying where the author has followed his ideas to places the reader hadn’t thought to visit. Known and Strange Things contains many essays that do this beautifully, combining the thoughtful pause with insistent questioning, tumbling over different terrains, picking up bits of them as they go, taking on the grain and texture of all the places they’ve been." Financial Times
"We have in Cole, a Nigerian American, a continuation of [James] Baldwin’s legacy; he’s an observer and truth-seeker of the highest order....It is a joy to go inside the mind of someone for whom clever insight is second nature." The Seattle Times
"There’s almost no subject Cole can’t come at from a startling angle....His [is a] prickly, eclectic, roaming mind." The Boston Globe
"[Cole] brings a subtle, layered perspective to all he encounters—whether it’s photographs, books, foreign countries, or Internet memes. The collected essays of Known and Strange Things offer a glimpse of a roving mind in action." Vanity Fair
"Cole has fulfilled the dazzling promise of his novels Every Day Is for the Thief and Open City. He ranges over his interests with voracious keenness, laser-sharp prose, an open heart and a clear eye." The Guardian
"On every level of engagement and critique, Known and Strange Things is an essential and scintillating journey." Claudia Rankine, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
About the Author
Teju Cole was born in the United States in 1975 and raised in Nigeria. He is the author of Every Day Is for the Thief and Open City, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Internationaler Literaturpreis, the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the New York City Book Award, and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His photography has been exhibited in India and the United States. He is Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College.