After 12 Years, Teju Cole Returns to Fiction with Tremor

It is the second novel and ninth book by the great writer who appeared on the cover of Open Country Mag. Random House describes it as “a startling work of realism and invention.”


After 12 Years, Teju Cole Returns to Fiction with Tremor

Twelve years after the publication of his first novel Open City, an exploration of cosmopolitanism set in post-9/11 New York City, Teju Cole has returned to fiction with his second, Tremor. It is his third book of fiction since he made his debut with the 2007 novella Every Day Is for the Thief, which blurs fiction and nonfiction and includes photographs in its scan of Lagos.

In the years since Open City, Cole’s oeuvre expanded beyond fiction. It now includes two essay collections: Known and Strange Things (2016) and Black Paper: Writing in a Dark Time (2021); and four photobooks: Blind Spot (2017), Fernweh (2020), Golden Apple of the Sun (2021), and Human Archipelago (2022).

With nine books in 16 years, Cole, widely recognized as one of the great and original contemporary writers, is also among the most prolific of his generation. In our July 2021 cover story on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Open City, our editor Otosirieze wrote that his straddling of fiction, nonfiction, and photography and his deviation from the traditional template in African fiction “opened a new path in African literature.”

Teju Cole July 2021 Cover of Open Country Mag

Cole’s publisher Penguin Random House announce that, in Tremor, he employs stream-of-consciousness as a narrative device, inviting readers to partake in the minds of his characters as they live, exist, and move through their world. The book’s synopsis reads:

A weekend spent antiquing is shadowed by the colonial atrocities that occurred on that land. A walk at dusk is interrupted by casual racism. A loving marriage is riven by mysterious tensions. And a remarkable cascade of voices speak out from a pulsing metropolis.

We’re invited to experience these events and more through the eyes and ears of Tunde, a West African man currently working as a teacher of photography on a renowned New England campus. He is a reader, a listener, a traveler, drawn to many different kinds of stories: stories from history and epic; stories of friends, family, and strangers; stories found in books and films.

Together these stories make up his days. In aggregate these days comprise a life.

Teju Cole - Tremor

The book, Random House says, is “a startling work of realism and invention that engages brilliantly with literature, music, race, history, and much more, as it examines the passage of time and how we mark it,” and “a reckoning with human survival amidst ‘history’s own brutality, which refuses symmetries and seldom consoles,’ but it is also a testament to the possibility of joy.”

The minimalist cover was designed by Alex Merto who spoke about it to Literary Hub.

“As a designer, getting the chance to work on one of your favorite writer’s books is an incredible experience,” Merto said. “For me, that writer was Teju Cole. His unique style of storytelling has always resonated with me. What made this project even more special was the chance to connect directly with Teju throughout the process. In this industry, it is unusual to have that kind of exchange with an author, but I believe it enhanced our final jacket.”

Tremor will be out on October 17, 2023, from Random House.

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Ada Nnadi

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