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Open City: A Novel Paperback – Jan. 17 2012
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Winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for a distinguished first book of fiction
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award
"Reminiscent of the works of W.G. Sebald, this dreamy, incantatory debut was the most beautiful novel I read this year—the kind of book that remains on your nightstand long after you finish so that you can continue dipping in occasionally as a nighttime consolation." –Ruth Franklin, The New Republic
"A psychological hand grenade." –Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic, Best Books I Read This Year
“A meditative and startlingly clear-eyed first novel.” –Newsweek/Daily Beast Writers’ Favorite Books 2011
"This year, literary discovery came, for me, in the form of Teju Cole’s debut novel, Open City, a deceptively meandering first-person narrative about a Nigerian psychiatry resident in New York. The bonhomous flâneur who strolls Manhattan from top to bottom, reveals, in the course of his walking meditations, both more about the city and about himself than we – or indeed he – could possibly anticipate. Cole writes beautifully; his protagonist is unique; and his novel, utterly thrilling." –Clare Messud in the Globe and Mail
“On the surface, the story of a young, foreign psychiatry resident in post-9/11 New York City who searches for the soul of the city by losing himself in extended strolls around teeming Manhattan. But it's really a story about a lost nation struggling to regain a sense of direction after that shattering, disorienting day 10 years ago. A quiet, lyrical and profound piece of writing.” –Seattle Times, 32 of the Year’s Best Books
“[Open City is] lean and mean and bristles with intelligence. The multi-culti characters and streets of New York are sharply observed and feel just right…Toward the end, there’s a poignant, unexpected scene in a tailor’s shop that’s an absolute knockout.” –Jessica Hagedorn, author of Toxicology in Salon.com “Writers choose their favorite books of 2011”
“I couldn't stop reading Teju Cole's debut novel and was blown away by his ability to capture the human psyche with such beautiful yet subtle prose.” –Slate.com, Best Books of 2011
“An unusual accomplishment, ‘Open City’ is a precise and poetic meditation on love, race, identity, friendship, memory, dislocation and Manhattan bird life.” –The Economist, 2011 Books of the Year
“The most interesting new writer I encountered this year.” –Books and Culture, Favorite Books of 2011
"A Sebaldesque wander through New York." –The Guardian, Best Books of the Year
“An indelible debut novel. Does precisely what literature should do: it brings together thoughts and beliefs, and blurs borders…A compassionate and masterly work.” – The New York Times Book Review
“The cool, concise prose of Open City draws you in more quietly, then breaks your heart. Who knew that taking a long walk in Manhattan could be so profound?” –Jessica Hagedorn, author of Toxicology in New York Magazine
“[Teju Cole] has a phenomenal voice…prodigious talent, beautiful language.” – WNYC’s The Takeaway
“Beautiful, subtle, and finally, original…What moves the prose forward is the prose—the desire to write, to defeat solitude by writing. Cole has made his novel as close to a diary as a novel can get, with room for reflection, autobiography, stasis, and repetition. This is extremely difficult, and many accomplished novelists would botch it, since a sure hand is needed to make the writer’s careful stitching look like a thread merely being followed for its own sake. Mysteriously, wonderfully, Cole does not botch it.” – James Wood, The New Yorker
“Nothing escapes Julius, the narrator of Teju Cole’s excellent debut novel…In Cole’s intelligent, finely observed portrait, Julius drifts through cities on three continents, repeatedly drawn into conversation with solitary souls like him: people struggling with the emotional rift of having multiple homelands but no home.”-- GQ
“A complicated portrait of a narrator whose silences speak as loudly as his words—all articulated in an effortlessly elegant prose…Teju Cole has achieved, in this book, a rare balance. He captures life’s urgent banality, and he captures, too, the ways in which the greater subjects glimmer darkly in the interstices.”— The New York Review of Books
“The most thoughtful and provocative debut I’ve read in a long time. The best first novel of 2011.” – The Daily Beast
“In another novel the city would serve as a mere setting. Cole, though, all but foists it on us in case we might be tempted to narrow our view or even look away.”-- New York Daily News
“Masterful.”—Kirkus (starred review)
“Intelligent and panoramic…engaged with the world in a rare and refreshing way.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“One of the most intriguing novels you’ll likely read…the alienated but sophisticated viewpoint is oddly poignant and compelling…reads like Camus’s L’etranger.”—Library Journal
“Unique and pensive.”-- Booklist
“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 savor and treasure.”
—Colm Tóibín, 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 flâneur, surface and then dissolve like a palimpsest composed, outside of time, by a brilliant master.”
—Rawi Hage, author of De Niro’s Game, winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
“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
"If Baudelaire was a young African, wandering the streets of contemporary New York, this is the book he’d write. A melancholy, beautiful meditation on modern urban life, it has echoes of W.G. Sebald and Walter Benjamin and reveals Teju Cole as one of a talented new generation of global writers, at home in the world.”-- Hari Kunzru
“A reader feels the density of [Julius’s] mind but also the fragility of his identity.” – Los Angeles Times
“Magnificent…the trip is as meaningful as the destination. Open City is a remarkably resonant feat of prose.” – The Seattle Times
“A quiet novel that somehow manages to scream.” – The Boston Globe
“Quietly powerful.” – O: The Oprah Magazine
“My favourite novel of the year, dreamlike and meandering, like the best of W G Sebald.” –Alain de Botton, The New Statesman
“[A] remarkable and highly accomplished first novel. . . . exquisitely composed. . . .I have read it twice, and I still cannot pin it down to a theme or a type. At once symbolical and precise, part fiction, part reportage or memoir, it is beyond category.” –Jan Morris, The Independent
About the Author
- Publisher : Random House Trade Paperbacks (Jan. 17 2012)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0812980093
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812980097
- Item weight : 204 g
- Dimensions : 13.11 x 1.6 x 20.29 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #171,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from Canada
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It may be his professional training and/or his personal history - growing up in Nigeria in a bi-racial family - Julius appears to always maintain his reserve and detachment, looking at his environment through the lens of the outsider. Somebody calls him a "journeyer", a "visionary", someone who "has traveled far". And he has, of course. His reflections on the aftermath of the destruction of the WTC or his discussion of the situation in the Middle East with Farouq, a North African immigrant in Brussels, are remarkable as they are affecting. But he is also a loner; having lost one girlfriend, he longs for another, no longer "available". He comes closest in his personal relations to his old professor, Dr. Saito. Yet, he is also restless, facing "this constant struggle to modulate the internal environment, this endless being tossed about like a cloud." While he is good at discovering the hidden stories in others, his own secret, if that is what it was, remains a mystery, caught between fact and fiction.
Teju Cole's book is exquisitely written, descriptive and imaginative: brilliant in many ways. But don't look for plot or straight forward narration. Go with the flow of the walks, and you get carried by their rhythms. Cole is also a professional photographer and one could easily imagine photographs inserted into the text, à la W.G. Sebald. There are other parallels between OPEN CITY and Sebald's genre-transcending novels. Do you need to know NYC to enjoy the walks with Julius? Not really, although, having walked along some of the streets and places, I feel motivated to return, book in hand. [Friederike Knabe]
Top reviews from other countries
The first thing that strikes you is the evocative nature of the writing - I was hooked in the early paragraphs. On first impressions what we seem to be faced with is a description of the well-written wanderings of an individual through New York. First impressions can be very deceptive. There's no real plot, at least there kind of is but it's a weak one (find grandmother) - if you want the heavily plotted novel with lots of explosions, "characters" and thrills then read Eric van Lustbader, Dan Brown, or Robert Ludlum - not this. This book is far more subtle than that.
There are so many aspects to this novel. At times you feel like the character is moving through a living body, going down into the intestines of the city and popping up in various different locations, which are magically described. There are concepts that arise throughout such as simulacrum, edifice, microcosms...I could go on...
Things move languidly to two big reveals, the first of which most people will get and is somewhat shocking. I'm not sure everyone will get the second big reveal. The ending is absolutely mind-blowing. Me reading: uhhmmm, why is he telling me this, WHAT THE?, OMG I just realized! At the abrupt end you realize the significance of so many details and events that you questioned the importance of at the time. I wanted to go back through the novel immediately with a notebook and reestablish the chronology - but I didn't - in some ways that would spoils things.
There are various references to Italo Calvino throughout, and I can now see that probably isn't an accident.
Kundera said in "The Art of the Novel" that the greatest novels say something that can't be said in any other way, and I think this novel probably ticks that box. It's hard to see how else this would be pulled off. Amazing.
I don't often read novels, but loved Teju Cole's other book of essays: Known and Strange Things, so this was on my list for a while - absolutely glad I read it. For me, one of the best novels I've ever read, and I will be mulling it over for weeks to come.
El libro en sí carece de un argumento novelístico al uso. Julius, un nigeriano emigrado a EEUU, pasea por New York, donde reside y trabaja como psiquiatra.
Y eso es el libro: los paseos de Julius, sus reflexiones sobre lo que ve. En estas reflexiones mezcla el tiempo pasado de la cultura estadounidense, la europea y la africana, que confluyen en esa gran urbe que es Nueva York.
Sobre todo, Open City es un libro sobre el tiempo, la memoria y la identidad.
La memoria, y la supresión deliberada o no de algún recuerdo, serán fundamentales en este libro que no puedo dejar de recomendar.