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Open City Hardcover – 8 Feb 2011

3.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 8 Feb 2011

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 259 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (8 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781400068098
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068098
  • ASIN: 1400068096
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.6 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 736,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Impressive ... intricately woven ... a remarkable debut novel, one that's as effortless as a stroll around Central Park.' --Sunday Times

'There is something beguiling about this very articulate flâneur picking his way through the snares of consciousness ... agreeably strange and suggestive.' --Financial Times

`A melancholy, beautiful meditation on modern urban life ... reveals Teju Cole as one of a talented new generation.' --Hari Kunzru

'A novel to savour and treasure.' --Colm Tóibín

'Beautiful, subtle, and finally, original.'
--James Wood, New Yorker --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Open City by Teju Cole is a stunning and acclaimed debut novel following a young man's journey from Nigeria to Manhattan. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Open City is an exceptional novel.

Its intense, detailed and specific narrative, unravelling inside the mind of one man, Julius - a young Nigerian-German doctor completing his residency in psychiatry in a New York hospital - brings the city of new York hauntingly to life in a different, slower, deeper way from anything I've ever read. From this detail and specificity, it reaches out widely to the global flows of our fluxing, ungraspable world, personified by the various immigrants and asylum seekers he encounters. It reaches in, too, to touch the reader's mind and senses and emotions. For this restrained, intellectual voice, you realise, is piercingly sensitive - it gets to you!

This is not one for the fan of plot-heavy pageturners, perhaps. Julius spends much time alone, walks a lot and thinks a lot, about art and memory and history. He sees a lot, as loners sometimes do, and has strange, surprising, significant encounters, often with other immigrants, as loners sometimes do.

His story, perhaps, goes nowhere much. And yet, in his actual journey to Brussels, his journeys of memory back to Nigeria, and in the mouths and memories of those he meets from far-flung places, it goes to Africa, to Europe... and to places in the heart.

It travels too, through his observations and reflections, in time, political and cultural history. Full of seeming digressions, it digresses in fact not at all, but is a seamless deepening through detail of the whole picture and atmosphere of today's global city.

And it goes to a sharp inner twist that you will not forget.

It's a book to love, and to reread many times.
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Format: Paperback
A young doctor takes breaks from his busy psychiatric residency and, later, private practice by walking the streets of New York and traveling briefly to Brussels. Julius's rich, diary-like account of his interactions with the cities' people and structures, salted with his incomplete self-knowledge and unresolved past, amounts to Open City, an engrossing meditation and celebration of language.

I'd rather share my experience with Open City than review it. After reading the novel, I began (a bit like Julius, who settles into a flâneur's perspective during his walks) running into lengthy, insightful, and deservedly positive reviews of it in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The New Statesman. Not much I can add to what they say.

Observation and language worked like plot to carry me along, mind and spirit, though Julius's wanderings. Julius often feels reflective and associative, much like anyone reading, and subject to crosscurrents of art, music, literature, his own fine-tuned senses and city life. Consider the synchronicity in this paragraph after Julius describes a performance of Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony at Carnegie Hall:

"In the glow of the final movement, but well before the music ended, an elderly woman in the front row stood, and began to walk up the aisle. She walked slowly, and all eyes were on her, though all ears remained on the music. It was a though she had been summoned, and was leaving into death, drawn by a force invisible to us. The old woman was frail, with a think crown of white hair that, backlit by the stage, became a halo, and she moved so slowly that she was like a mote suspended inside the slow-moving music.
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Format: Paperback
I was so excited about this book - W.G. Sebald written by a disaffected NY immigrant, the premise is fantastic, and the clouds of literary hype it trailed had me almost salivating.

And yet...it was one of the most disappointing books I have read in years. A seriously poorly put-together work of fiction.

I don't mind that 'nothing happens' - I am a lover of digressive works of fiction or non-fiction or semi-fiction, but here it wasn't digressive so much as utterly aimless. In such a work, the narrator or his/her stories have to engage us in some way, but Julius is simply so utterly unlikeable that, as a reader, I cared nothing for him or the fairly dull tales he has to tell.

Cole attempts bathos, or perhaps some sort of humour in his meditation on the passing of Tower Records (for example) - but it ends up being nothing but faintly ridiculous. He seems to pride himself on the fact that he is so utterly unlikeable, yet has nothing of other unlikeable narrators (be they Humbert Humbert, Tarquin Winot, Freddie Montgomery or any number of Banville's queasy raconteurs).

The later revelation of some of Julius' possible earlier misdeeds toward the end of the book creates no drama, no interest, no nothing - especially as Julius himself seems to be so unbothered by it (is he an unreliable narrator? I don't care, and neither does he. Did I miss something? If I did, again, I just don't care).

The disappointment, vague frustration and - mostly -utter boredom - I felt while reading this book were compounded by having recently seen Cole read from it: never have I seen a writer so palpably bored by his own writing. I don't blame him.
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