With every anecdote, with each overlap, Cole lucidly builds a compassionate and masterly work engaged more with questions than with answers regarding some of the biggest issues of our time: migration, moral accountability and our tenuous tolerance of one another’s differences…Cole's writing is assured, his ideas are well developed, and his imagery is delicious…
Miguel Syjuco - New York Times
Little happens in this impressionistic novel, but that hardly matters. The book is full of so many beautifully phrased observations that it's easy to be simply mesmerized.
Nora Krug - Washington Post
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 - Globe and Mail (Canada)
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.
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 - New Yorker
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.
New York Review of Books
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 - New Republic
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.
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(Starred review.) America's standing in the world is never far from the restless thoughts of psychiatry resident Julius, a Nigerian immigrant who wanders Manhattan, pondering everything from Goya...to the rise of the bedbug epidemic.... [T]he picture of a mind that emerges in lieu of a plot is fascinating, as it is engaged with the world in a rare and refreshing way.
One of the most intriguing novels you'll likely read, this debut...is riddled with ambiguity. By the end, there is so much disjuncture that readers will wonder whether the protagonist is the classic unreliable narrator.... Verdict: The alienated but sophisticated viewpoint is oddly poignant and compelling. —Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos P.L., CA
For reasons not altogether clear, Julius’ walks turn into worldwide travel, and he flies first to Europe...and makes some interesting friends, then to Nigeria, and finally back to New York City. Along the way, he meets many people and often has long discussions with them about philosophy and politics.... [A] unique and pensive book [and] charming read. —Julie Hunt
[M]asterful.... Rather than establishing momentum, the circular, elliptical narrative focuses on the everyday, though in Manhattan this encompasses muggings, car crashes.... A climactic revelation toward the end casts fresh light on all that has preceded.... Determining whether the novel's main character is hero, villain or somewhere in between might require the reader to start over with the book after finishing it.
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