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Open City

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  10,725 Ratings  ·  1,462 Reviews
Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor named Julius wanders, reflecting on his relationships, his recent breakup with his girlfriend, his present, his past. He encounters 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 ...more
Paperback, 259 pages
Published January 17th 2012 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2011)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jay Z
Mar 12, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fic-lit
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
Apr 07, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2015
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
Justin Evans
May 13, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An epigone of Sebald, writing under the influence of Benjamin... Fan fiction of sorts... I was delighted to meet a fellow psychogeographer!...
Stephanie Sun
Aug 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rebecca Foster
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbury-library
I’ve now read all three of Cole’s books. I admire each of them, chiefly for the sense of place and the sense of self. Here Julius, a sophisticated psychiatry resident, wanders the streets of Manhattan and Brussels, meeting people, hearing stories and dredging up memories from his early life in Nigeria. “I was the listener, the compassionate African who paid attention to the details of someone else’s life and struggle.” I loved the mixture of external events and internal shifts: a startling revel ...more
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
Aug 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Problem sa ocenjivanjem ovde je što ova petica i petica za Oza i ona za Rejesa nisu iste, i ne treba da budu. Ovo je petica za besprekorno pripovedanje, najbolji kraj koji sam čitala u poslednjih nekoliko meseci, političke komentare bez okorele ideologije, mnogo zanimljivih podataka koje sam saznala o umetnosti i istoriji itd.
Znate ono kad ljudi vole da idu u Tursku na mesta gde su snimane turske serije? I tako bih i ja išla na mesta gde je 'snimana ova knjiga' jer je snimana - Kol je fotograf i
Nov 04, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In OPEN CITY begleiten wir Julius bei seinen Streifzügen durch New York. Julius ist Anfang 30, schließt gerade seine Ausbildung zum Psychiater ab und streift auf ausgedehnten Spaziergängen durch die Stadt, ein Flaneur im 21. Jahrhundert.
Verbunden ist Julius durch Herkunft und Bildung mit Afrika, Europa und Amerika, ihrer Geschichte und ihrer Kultur. Er ist ein genauer Beobachter, der auch in unscheinbaren Details Stoff für Betrachtungen und Assoziationen findet. Er selbst sagt von sich, dass Un
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
I've been meaning to read this book just forever, and I'm delighted that I finally did. On balance, it's a very lovely, very thoughtful, very soft book. "Soft" probably seems like a bizarre word, but I mean it in a specific way that I've never quite been able to articulate; I feel it with certain Margaret Atwood books but also with Alejandro Zambra's The Private Lives of Trees. It's a quality of stillness, of meandering—when I open books like this it's as if a hush descends, and the prose unfurl ...more
Richard Derus
Apr 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ben Hinson
Teju Cole takes us into the mind of "Julius," the narrator throughout the entire journey that is Open City. Right from the onset one thing rings clear: Teju Cole's masterful use of words and phrases to poetic effect. And this perhaps is the strongest asset of the novel. I enjoyed some of the themes touched on through some of Julius's interactions (e.g. classism, racism, the power of propaganda). There were some beautiful contrasts (e.g. Robert DeNiro's smile and Farouq), and some great observati ...more
Elizabeth Adams
Feb 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Open City' has been showered with five star reviews - and Cole has received numerous awards for it. Such lavish praise weighs heavily on you as a reader, you feel almost guilty 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 impression is that the wr
James Murphy
Mar 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-usa, ebook
Il libro inizia con la migrazione degli uccelli e si conclude con uccelli che muoiono schiantandosi contro la Statua della Libertà perché disorientati dalla luce del faro. È un'immagine bellissima che riprende il tema del libro, ovvero la vita da profugo, il dover abbandonare la patria a causa di guerre o dittature, per cercare una vita migliore altrove ma spesso ingannati da speranza rosee e dalle difficoltà da affrontare. Nel libro non si parla solo di emigrazione o immigrazione, ma anche di g ...more
4.5 stars, really...two things kept it from being five for me: a scene with Moji towards the end of the book that wasn't convincing to me and the ending itself--it left me feeling unsatisfied. I'm still thinking about it, though.

Cole's prose is beautiful and easy to's melancholic and meditative. The narrator seems to be an outsider observing everything around him, yet the reader never quite knows what he thinks, what he really thinks, or how he is really experiencing much of what he te
"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.
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Mar 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Teju Cole is in a very real sense an African-American. Born in the United States, he was raised in Nigeria before returning o the U.S. (This is in a curious parallel to my mother, who was born in Cleveland but raised on a Hungarian farm in Fehérmegye before returning to the U.S. at age 17.)

Open City is probably one of the two or three best books I have read this year to date (out of more than a hundred), and easily the most promising new author I have read during the same period. At some point n
Friederike Knabe
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-lit
"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
When you read an author for the first time, you look for him. Where is his perspective? Is he in this protagonist? Does he like this protagonist? Are you and the author in agreement about what the protagonist is like? If you're not, the book will annoy you sooner or later. I don't like Open City's narrator. Julius is pretentious and self-aggrandizing.
Each person must, on some level, take himself as the calibration point for normalcy, must assume that the room of his own mind is not, cannot be,
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Rape??? 9 370 Aug 09, 2015 05:45PM  
Great African Reads: Cole: Open City | (CL) first read: Apr 2013 24 53 May 28, 2013 07:08AM  
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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
More about Teju Cole...

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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.” 35 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.” 28 likes
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