Teju Cole’s Essays in Black Paper Seek Humanity in Darkness

It is the author and photographer’s eighth book and second collection of essays.
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Teju Cole by Teju Cole.

Teju Cole by Teju Cole.

Teju Cole’s new collection of essays, Black Paper: Writing in a Dark Time, is set for release in October. “Darkness is not empty,” he writes in the book, which contemplates “what it means to keep our humanity—and witness the humanity of others—in a time of darkness.”  

Cole, says the book’s publisher University of Chicago Press, “is well-known as a master of the essay form, and in Black Paper he is writing at the peak of his skill, as he models how to be closely attentive to experience—to not just see and take in, but to think critically about what we are seeing and not seeing.”

Here is a description:

Wide-ranging in their subject matter, the essays are connected by ethical questions about what it means to be human and what it means to bear witness, recognizing how our individual present is informed by a collective past.

Cole’s writings in Black Paper approach the fractured moment of our history through a constellation of interrelated concerns: confrontation with unsettling art, elegies both public and private, the defense of writing in a time of political upheaval, the role of the color black in the visual arts, the use of shadow in photography, and the links between literature and activism.

Throughout, Cole gives us intriguing new ways of thinking about the color black and its numerous connotations. As he describes the carbon copy process in his epilogue: ‘Writing on the top white sheet would transfer the carbon from the black paper onto the bottom white. Black transported the meaning.’

Black Paper will be Cole’s eighth book, after the novella Every Day Is for the Thief (2007, 2014), the novel Open City (2011), the essay collection Known and Strange Things (2016), and the photobooks Blind Spot (2017), Human Archipelago (2019), Fernweh (2020), and Golden Apple of the Sun (2021).

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The cover for Black Paper is yet to be announced.

Black Paper will be released on the 22 October 2021. Pre-order it here.

Paula Willie-Okafor
Paula Willie-Okafor is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. She is a student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she is custodian of The Writers' Community (TWC). Her writing has appeared in Kissing Dynamite Magazine and Praxis Magazine.
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