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Open City

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  7,701 ratings  ·  1,156 reviews
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, & they give him the opportunity to process his relationships, his recent breakup with his girlfriend, his present, and his past.
Paperback, 261 pages
Published February 2nd 2012 by Faber and Faber (first published January 1st 2011)
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Jay Z
after finally reading this book and listening to the awed murmurings that accompany any mention of it, i'm mostly just awash in a sea of confusion. a lot of reviews point to how teju cole defies stereotype. i assume this refers to the stereotypical third-world oppression/poverty porn crap that's lining the shelves these days. though saying that a book defies stereotype isn't about how good the book is, it's about how bad everything else is in comparison. as compliments go, it's a piss-poor one. ...more
Cheryl Kennedy
What am I looking at here? This is the question Teju Cole seems to be asking in OPEN CITY. The visible, seemingly banal information seen with our eyes has a history and a social context which can be investigated and understood. And there are few places so rich with stimuli as New York City. Julius is a psychiatric fellow who spends his time away from the hospital walking the neighborhoods which are as diverse as any global city in the world. And yet there are divisions of race and economics that ...more
Reading Cole’s “Open City” was kind of like giving someone the black person head nod, and the other person staring back at you like you’re crazy. That’s basically what I felt in struggling to finish this book. I bought the novel as an act of solidarity, because he is a young black writer writing about young black experiences. Now, I won’t stop supporting writers in general and young black ones in particular, but I will keep it real if the work is not engaging. I didn’t recognize myself (or peopl ...more
Justin Evans
Had I done a bit more research, I never would have started this book. I do not care about New York. I do not care about your observations of birdlife. I do not care about your descriptions of buildings. I do not care about your random conversations with random people about nothing, in large part because I do not think they add up to anything.

Well well, I vaguely remembered a review of a novel, possibly not this one, in which a guy thinks about Foucault. For some reason, I thought I was in the m
Stepping off the kerb

So, here's the conundrum. If you are writing the sort of novel that refuses to do any of the traditional jobs of an old-fashioned novel, like fulfil a quest, solve a puzzle, achieve redemption, map a transition from one state to another, if it denies the idea of an arc of tension or indeed a plot of any kind, in fact, then how do you finish it?

Here we have Julius, walking around Sebald-like in New York, then walking around in Brussels, where he vaguely thinks about looking
I rise at six from tangled sheets and open every window to the cool morning air, a breath of life after the stifling heat of the past few days. I stand on the edge of the terrace a moment and savour the chill on my skin, a refreshing tonic that gently dispels the dread of oily days. A quick glass of clear, cool water, dress, and I am out, heading for the park and the fields beyond the allotment gardens. The world feels new-made and virginal to my pounding feet in their vibrant green running shoe ...more
This book meandered from continent to continent. At times, I was absolutely bored despite some really beautiful and impressive passages. No one can doubt Cole's absolute command for the historical or philosophical, but as a criticism of how it appears in this text, I'm just not interested in every mundane human interaction with a stranger or old friend. Further, the plot twist in Chapter 20 didn't feel real or even remotely connected to the last 19 chapters that I had just diligently waded throu ...more
using a realist, pseudo-autobiographical style very reminiscent of sebald, the main character, Julius, wanders through an up-to-date and recognizable NYC, an accomplishment in itself, observing the marathoners and skyscrapers at columbus circle, the twin towers intact in the queens museum's diorama, conversations with cabdrivers infused with political subtext, bedbugs -- and uses that general observation to describe, repeatedly and profoundly, the immigrant's situation. maybe in fact the novel i ...more
Stephanie Sun
On a flight to Belgium a third of the way through the book, narrator/human palimpsest Julius muses that conversations with strangers on planes quickly turn tiresome for him, rarely rewarding his curiosity. Ironic, because that's how I began to feel about Julius's rambling digressions by about this time in the book. That's not to say that he's never insightful—he's often brilliant in fact—but some of the observations are quite dull, the banal profundities of everyone's late-night conversations in ...more
Elizabeth Adams
It's here.

Teju Cole's novel, Open City, published by Random House, launches today in bookstores and through online vendors, to numerous rave and perceptive reviews.

That will be no surprise to readers of my blog, The Cassandra Pages, who've been privileged from time to time to read Teju's essays here, illustrated with his photographs. I am absolutely thrilled about the publication of this debut novel (those of us who read Every Day is For the Thief know that he previously wrote a novella.) But re
Open City, Teju Cole's début novel, is a strangely wonderful perambulatory reading experience: insightful, lyrical, decidedly modern and politically prescient. However despite it's numerous successes the overall novel feels a bit like an attempt. In Barthes' "The Death of the Author" he writes (which feels to me too perfect a description of the present novel to ignore):
The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from innumerable centers of culture. Similar to Bouvard and Pécuchet, those eternal c
Reading the wonderful Open City by Teju Cole I cannot imagine what a non-New Yorker (meaning, of course, in the elitist New York way, someone from New York City) how someone not from the city would react to this novel or how they would even process it. I have walked exactly the streets the character has walked, visited the places he has visited, even experienced the same reactions to closure of stores like Tower Records on 65th Street. I experienced my own past as much as I experienced the narra ...more
James Murphy
Open City reminds me of a couple of things. First of all, to me the prose reads like that of Kazuo Ishiguro. Its rhythms and textures are similar and just as beautiful. Second, one of the major themes, that of a man restlessly walking the streets of New York City, brings to mind Alfred Kazin's memoir of coming of age in the '30s, A Walker in the City. Teju Cole's peripatetic protagonist, Julius, is a resident in psychiatry who wanders the city's streets in search of release from the tensions of ...more
Nasim Marie
'Open City' has been showered with five star reviews - and Cole has received numerous awards for it. Such lavish praise (almost) weighs heavily on you as a reader, you feel guilty - flawed even - for not absolutely loving the book. I confess to being bored, I found Julius, the main character, a young Nigerian (half German) doctor who walks the streets of New York to unwind, unlikeable, over-earnest, he has virtually no sense of humour. There are no moments of lightness.

This gets weary.

My impress
Julius, a Nigerian immigrant, comes to America and becomes a psychiatrist. He also focuses his acute eyes on the City of New York as he habitually walks her streets. He’s a classic introvert who’s more comfortable listening than talking. Cole’s writing is engaging as he ties his creation, Julius, to Coetzee’s ubiquitous character Elizabeth Costello and it’s a valid comparison in many ways. Both protagonists are perpetual visitors even as they live for years in one place. Neither Julius nor Eliza ...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
The Book Report: The annus horribilis of Julius, a Nigerian psych resident in Manhattan. He is estranged from his mother, his only surviving parent; never knew his German maternal grandmother; is alone and adrift in the cold (too cold for his tropical self) and cruel city. He responds to his recent loss of a girlfriend to the lures of San Francisco by walking. He lives in Morningside Heights, a small college town on Manhattan's far Upper West Side; he works his last year of residency at Columbia ...more
"Things don't go away just because you choose to forget them."

I have been thinking about this book a lot.

It both opens and ends with images of birds; Cole surely knows the universal symbolism of the bird as soul. In the beginning the birds are migrating. The author closes with images of souls lost, dying, deceived by a false light.

New York City is so integral to the story, I wonder if a reader unfamiliar with the streets that Julius wanders and wonders about might lose either interest or depth.
Sigrun Hodne
Sometimes I'm reluctant to read books that are highly praised. Almost as if praise is in itself is dubious, a warning sign. Teju Cole's Open City has been such a book for me. A book everyone seemed to like, a novel I was sure I would find wanting. (I did not - !)

Here is what i found:

Open City is a book of - I'm tempted to say: universal themes (even if I am aware of the problem of defining something as universal - as also is a theme in the novel), but even so I would like to use it, because this
Mar 09, 2014 Suzanne rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Suzanne by: Torrance book club
A peripatetic meditation. Walk along with Julian as he wanders the streets of New York (and also at one point Brussels), musing about art, music, architecture, politics and race relations, history, nature, the immigrant experience, the patients he’s seen as a psychiatric resident at a NY hospital, his childhood in Nigeria, mental illness and sanity. He has conversations with friends, draws character sketches of people he encounters in his day-to-day life, relays their various stories, and keeps ...more
Friederike Knabe
"New York City worked itself into my life at walking pace..." This reads like an invitation to join an exploration of the place, its sounds and atmospheres, seen through the eyes of Julius, narrator of Teju Cole's debut novel, OPEN CITY. And it is! Julius is a German-Nigerian immigrant and works as a resident doctor in a NYC psychiatric clinic. As we follow him, meandering - initially aimlessly - through the streets in his neighbourhood and beyond, our eyes and minds are opened to much more than ...more
K.M. Soehnlein
Open City is many things: a first-person account of an outsider's experience; a history of New York City's buried past; the sometimes astute but increasingly unreliable impressions of an essayistic narrator. Cole allows himself permission to engage the conversations of our era: how non-religious Muslims see a post-9/11 world; how an elderly gay man reflects upon the end of his life; what an incarcerated refugee has to say about America. But these are all just daubs of paint on a vast, disarrayed ...more
It was impossible for me to read this book without thinking of W.G. Sebald, partially because the blurb on the back cover referenced it, maybe, and partially because I have Sebald on the brain, but mostly because Open City really is a book about walking, cultural landscape, and historical resonance, ala Rings of Saturn - not a bad model for a novel, really, although a hard one to pull off, and Cole does an admirable job of it. The walking is well described - although I have an admittedly high to ...more
This was book #9 for me on the tourney of books, and the one that i had to stop reading halfway through while I was on vacation because it was depressing the hell out of me. Yet another difficult book: on the one hand, the stream of consciousness is done well here, and the way the narrators thoughts meander arnound and in and out of things is very effective. On the other hand, this is a narrator who is... difficult to connect with - he is SO solitary, his interests SO specific and refined... it ...more
This was the most perfect book I have read in a long, long time until I reached the end.
The tone of Cole's voice, his honesty and integrity, the vantage point of his view of the world, the subtle lyricism of his words, the generosity of spirit beneath the surface along with his critical eye towards the true injustices. it all added up to a tremendous first novel. Cole captured the rhythms of New York and the sites and sounds we all know there so well, neighborhood by neighborhood. He revealed hi
The value in this book seems more didactic than literary. I don't mean to imply that it has to be one or the other. Nor do I mean to say that this book is void of literary value - people have said it is very Sebaldian, and though I've only read 1.5 novels by Sebald I'd be inclined to agree but I'm not trying to assert that it's dull or derivative or anything to that effect. But the novel's thrust - the continual references to Barthes, Said, Camus, de Man etc - made it feel as though Cole's true ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Read this again because I will go see the author speak on Wednesday. Still really love the walking bits and get a little distracted in the other bits. Cole's writing about music is stunning as well. His writing is fluid, and I'm looking forward to what comes next.
I've ingested 180 pages this weekend and have been struck spellbound. Yes, the influence of Sebald pervades, but the book I am most reminded of is Zone by Mathias Enard.

It was the NYTBR which brought this seminal work to my attention. It is staggering, it is the deft employment of a inchoate mirror to our fractured lives.
Alan Chen
Julius is a Nigerian-born psychiatric resident that lives in NYC. Outside his busy work hours he likes to walk/wander around the city and ponder over his life and philosophic/literary stuff that comes to his mind. He jumps around and eventually we get the full story of his childhood: half-caste, white mother, and stern father who dies when he is nine, left Nigeria after high school for the U.S. and hasn't seen his mother since. During the course of his wanderings he really gets into the descript ...more
open city n. an undefended city; spec. a city declared to be unfortified and undefended and so, by international law, exempt from enemy attack.

Julius, a Nigerian psychiatrist living in Manhattan, is Teju Cole's humane, aesthetic, and highly observant narrator in Open City, a debut novel that has earned Cole comparisons to such heavyweights as Proust and Sebald. While Cole's project is similar in how he explores how our surroundings shape and inform our experiences, our subjective realities, and
A book about a guy who walks around New York City. A lot. It’s not the type of plot summary that would usually convince me to pick up a book (or, in this case, check out the ebook from the library’s website and download it to my reader), but I did just move to New York, and the author is from Nigeria (and takes great photographs and has an awesome Twitter feed), so in the end I picked it up. Ahem. Downloaded it.

And I’m glad I did – it’s a beautifully written novel, and while the plot seems simpl
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I was born to Nigerian parents and grew up in Lagos. My mother taught French. My father was a business executive who exported chocolate. The first book I read (I was six) was an abridgment of Tom Sawyer. At fifteen I published cartoons regularly in Prime People, Nigeria’s version of Vanity Fair. Two years later I moved to the United States.

Since then, I’ve spent most of my time studying art histor
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“To be alive, it seemed to me, as I stood there in all kinds of sorrow, was to be both original and reflection, and to be dead was to be split off, to be reflection alone.” 27 likes
“Perhaps this is what we mean by sanity: that, whatever our self-admitted eccentricities might be, we are not villains of our own stories.” 18 likes
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