Born in the US to Nigerian parents in 1975, Teju Cole was raised in Nigeria and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Cole attained international fame in 2011 with “Open City”, an innovative and powerful first novel set in New-York, USA. Before that, he wrote “Everyday is for the thief” (2007), a novella depicting joys and ordeals of everyday life in Lagos, Nigeria. He is also famous for the small stories he crafts on “Small Fates”, a Twitter project he initiated. A writer, art historian and passionate street photographer, Teju Cole contributes to important literary publications such as “The New Yorker” and “Qarrtsiluni”. In this interview with Africa Book Club, he explains why this double identity gives him freedom, how limits are actually an opportunity for the writer and why big cities are so interesting.
Julius, the main character in Teju Cole’s Open City, is a German-Nigerian immigrant who works as a resident doctor in a New York City psychiatric clinic. As we follow him, meandering – initially aimlessly – through the streets in his neighborhood and beyond, our eyes and minds are opened to much more than the sidewalks, the brownstones, the parks and other vistas passing by at walking pace.What evolves as we are drawn deeper and deeper into the narration and the narrator’s mind is much more than another “stream-of-consciousness” story or another literary introduction to New York City and some of its illustrious people.
For our February book giveaway, we have selected one of our 2011 books of the year , Open City by Teju Cole. Released in January 2011 by Random House, Open City was picked by the New York Times as one of its 2011 Notable Books of the Year, and has been named a best book on more than twenty end of the year lists, including The New Yorker, The Economist, The Boston Globe , and Los Angeles Times.