Open City

Open City

A Novel

Book - 2011
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"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.
Publisher: New York : Random House, 2011.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781400068098
Characteristics: 259 pages ; 22 cm


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Apr 27, 2019

There's not much of a plot in this novel by Nigerian born, American-based Teju Cole, but it has a unique mood and a sort of lulling rhythm that I enjoyed. A lot of it involves walking around the city. Also check out "Americanah" and "Speak No Evil."

Jul 03, 2018

I thought this was a very slow read: I wasn’t sure if I wanted to ‘walk with Julius’ every time I picked up this novel, but there is a hypnotic character to the writing and structure. The mood is always elegaic. It’s definitely a thought-provoking novel.

May 29, 2018

I chose this book for my Book Club discussion. Be forewarned: Even if though I liked it quite a bit, most of my friends considered it tedious and couldn't finish it. If you're reading it for your own pleasure and you like slow, deliberate, thinky books that are not focused on narrative "thrust" (that is, that are not page-turners) you'll be fine.

SCL_Justin Aug 16, 2017

I picked up Teju Cole’s Open City because I saw his bit in The Atlantic about the White-Saviour Industrial Complex. This book isn’t really about Africa, but about being a man distanced from the world.

Julius is a Nigerian-born psychiatry resident in New York and the story follows him walking through his city, a trip to Belgium and his memories. There are multiple relationships touched upon, including that of his German mother, an elderly professor and people half-remembered from his childhood.

The book creates this sympathy for a calloused and detached person whose job is to connect with and resolve issues for his patients. It’s very good. Contemplative. A revelation in the end changes how you perceive Julius throughout the book, and that’s probably as close as the book gets to a plot.

Tyler__J Jun 08, 2015

I love books where the ending makes you re-evaluate what came before, but there is a lot more to this novel than a twist in perception; there is a quiet yet insistent vitality.

May 01, 2012

Cole is an Nigerian, now American, photographer and author. The book relates the thoughts and musings of a psychiatrist during his walks in New York City. It is almost precious, but solid. Interesting.

austinmurphy Feb 09, 2012

This is pretty well written, but the bombshell that is dropped about twenty pages from the end is a lot to take in. I see why Cole didn't explain it - he's probably trying to show how this narrator uses his intellect to distance himself from painful emotional experience and guilt. But, I don't know, this sort of "gotcha" feel doesn't really strike me as the most effective way to get this feeling across. This was good, but I wanted it to be even better.

Oct 19, 2011

Beautiful, thoughtful and well-written.

Jul 06, 2011

do not be in a hurry with this... though it reads quickly, there is an atmosphere, a simplicity to savor. if you love subtle, philosophical stories-without big answers; then this is a great choice!

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