Book review: Open City–Teju Cole


I have finally gotten to review this book.

The back of the book cover describes the book thus

‘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 world.

My thoughts?

Overall, I felt the book was pretentious, difficult (even impossible) to get into and as I read it, I thought how it’s possible for people to hype up something crappy into this larger than life thing. I will admit that as a result Open City was on my to-read list for almost three years before I finally bought it and wasted my time reading it.

In many parts I felt it to be unstructured, disjointed and almost like taking a bus that promises to go somewhere but never quite leaves the bus station! I honestly preferred the little story within a story and in those instances I could see the writers brilliance.

Discussed themes that were of interest to me include: the Jewish state, belonging/ identify, family dynamics, Nationhood and Migration as well as the power/benefits of solitude. But I feel like all this was overshadowed by the fact that he wanted to tell us about the different streets that Julius had walked on in New York and Belgium.

Final recommendation: Do not read the book. Avoid at all costs!

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