The City is Open, but the Man is Closed: Teju Cole’s First Novel


There is much to Teju Cole’s debut novel Open City, but there is also little to it.  It’s a book of wandering ruminations without much of a narrative arc, and it ends as delicately and unobtrusively as it begins. Filtered through the perceptions of Julius, a Nigerian born-and-raised psychiatrist on his residency in New York City, Open City is a thoughtful journey into the impressions of a observant, sensitive, but emotional reticent character as well as into the nature of a city known for brashness and ambition but predicated on cooperative, laissez-faire individual self-interest.

Mostly, the novel consists of Julius’ thoughts, reactions, and observations of the city set during habitual long walks, his interactions with the people in his life (who tend to vanish, gradually, one by one), as well as reminiscences of his African youth. Not a whole lot happens, plot incident-wise, outside of Julius’ vaguely-reasoned holiday in…

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