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Open City: A Novel by Teju Cole

Open City: A Novel (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Teju Cole

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1,065667,874 (3.7)75
Title:Open City: A Novel
Authors:Teju Cole
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2012), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library, Books Read 2015, Books Read 2012
Tags:fiction, american, new york city, walking, nigeria, brussels, immigrants, re-read, book group

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Open City by Teju Cole (2011)


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English (60)  Dutch (3)  German (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  All (66)
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
One of the most amazing books I have read for a while. It's impossible to describe because it encompasses the world and all experience. Cole evokes the places Julius wanders through (physically and in his memories) that I feel as if I have been there alongside. (So much so that for a second I was worried about the person I thought I knew was in Brussels after the bombings last month, until I realised this person was actually Julius!) ( )
  Deborahrs | Apr 15, 2017 |
I loved this right up to the end which I found supremely unsatisfying.
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
Sort of shapeless, but lots of great, beautifully written passages. No plot at all, really, and no ending to speak of -- the book just stops. (I was reading it on the Kindle and really didn't realize how close I was to the ending; I expected another chapter!) ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
I'll come back to this, but for now, Michiko Kakutani's review pretty much sums up my feelings about this novel, which I love-hated.

I may never agree with her about White Teeth (she calls is a masterpiece) but I have come to rely on her to accurately assess novels. And I'm glad to think that on this novel, at least, I'm not alone in my love for parts of it, and my deep frustration with other parts... ( )
  bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
Open City is part diary, part love letter to NYC, part history lesson and for me very unsettling. Julius is a Nigerian immigrant born of a Nigerian father and German mother. He is a psychiatrist who seems both profoundly connected and apart from the the city and his life. Through his walks and musings you begin to form a picture of a young man who is thoughtful, well studied, a lover of music and art. However, there is a dispassion about him. Something that feels broken or missing. He never tells us why he has a broken relationship with his German grandmother and when he goes to Brussels ostensibly to reconnect that never happens. He is also accused of something late in the book that he never offers and explanation for or an apology. While many reviewers saw something deep in the story, I found it sadly empty.

While Teju Cole's language is almost poetic and through Julius' walks around the city he connects the reader to literature, art, music, history, politics and the struggle of immigrants the book lacked a human connection for me. It lacked an explanation. ( )
  jenn_stringer | Aug 27, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
Want to write a breakout first novel? The conventional wisdom says ingratiate yourself (Everything Is Illuminated), grab the reader by the lapels (The Lovely Bones), or put on an antic show (Special Topics in Calamity Physics). Teju Cole's disquietingly powerful debut Open City does none of the above. It's light on plot. It's exquisitely written, but quiet; the sentences don't call attention to themselves. The narrator, a Nigerian psychiatry student, is emotionally distant, ruminative, and intellectual. His account of a year spent walking around New York, encountering immigrants of all kinds, listening to their stories and recalling his own African boyhood, achieves its resonance obliquely, through inference—meaning you have to pay attention. But Open City is worth the effort.

Immigration and exile are not new literary subjects (Salman Rushdie, Chang Rae-Lee, Jhumpa Lahiri), but Cole's treatment of them has a quiet clarity and surprising force. Will Open City find a breakout audience? I wonder, given its slow pace and darkness of its theme. Still, I hope so; it's the most thoughtful and provocative debut I've read in a long time.
Teju Cole’s Open City is neither a melodrama, nor is it about a city that has technically been declared "open" during wartime. The novel is set in New York City, no more than a couple of years ago, and narrated by a Nigerian psychiatrist on a research fellowship. Throughout the novel, the psychiatrist, Julius, wanders the streets of the city taking careful note of everything he sees, and everyone with whom he interacts. His observations are recorded in beautifully clear prose with the precision of a clinician, or at least the way one might wish to imagine the precision of a clinician. The descriptions of the cityscape around him are interspersed with memories of his boyhood in Nigeria. His time in New York is interrupted by a trip to Brussels which Julius takes using up his entire four week vacation time, in the vague, unrealized hope of somehow encountering his grandmother there. He is, however, unsure as to whether she is still alive, or even if she lives there at all. Without a clear plan to find her, he continues his habit of wandering, observing, interacting, recording.
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And so when I began to go on evening walks last fall, I found Morningside Heights an easy place from which to set out into the city.
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Jeder Mensch muss sich unter bestimmten Bedingungen als Sollwert der Normalität setzen und davon ausgehen, dass seine Psyche für ihn selbst nicht undurchschaubar ist, nicht undurchschaubar sein kann. Vielleicht verstehen wir das unter geistiger Gesundheit: dass wir uns selbst, so verschroben wir uns auch finden mögen, niemals als die Bösewichte unserer eigenen Geschichte wahrnehmen.
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Feeling adrift after ending a relationship, Julius, a young Nigerian doctor living in New York, takes long walks through the city while listening to the stories of fellow immigrants until a shattering truth is revealed.

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