Teju Cole took to Facebook on Monday to announce the decade-old milestone of his debut novel Open City. Published in 2011, the novel follows a young Nigerian-German psychiatrist in New York City, talking walks and making observations five years after 9/11. It was the book that established Cole as a major writer.
Open City has been translated into fifteen languages. It won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Internationaler Literaturpreis, the Rosenthal Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the New York City Book Award for Fiction. It was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and the Ondaatje Prize of the Royal Society of Literature.
“And so,” Cole begins on Facebook, just as the opening sentence of the novel. “I’m in a contemplative mood this morning. On February 8, 2011, exactly ten years ago today, I launched a little novel called ‘Open City.’ I knew it was a strange book. What did I hope for it? That it would find a few good readers. It found a few good readers.”
“This morning, a decade on, my heartfelt thanks go to them,” he continues. “My heartfelt thanks, in other words, go to you. I’m also so grateful to all the people behind the scenes who made the life and afterlife of this one book: the editors, the publicists, the assistants, the translators, the reviewers, the juries, the scholars, the professors, the friends, the family. And I would like to thank my little book too, which went out into the world and learned many languages, and saw many landscapes, and met many people, and was always kind enough to bring me along.”
Cole’s other books are Every Day Is for the Thief (2007, 2014), Known and Strange Things (2016), Blind Spot (2017), Human Archipelago (2019), and Fernweh (2020). This year he has two books forthcoming: a photobook Golden Apple of the Sun and a collection of essays Black Paper.
He was the photography critic of The New York Times Magazine from 2015 until 2019. He is currently the Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Harvard.