Teju Cole

I see myself as an observer of the world who has a strong drive to testify.

Award-Winning Author of Open City, Blind Spot, and Photography Critic for NYT Magazine

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Teju Cole | Award-Winning Author of Open City, Blind Spot, and Photography Critic for NYT Magazine
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A prodigious novelist, critic, and photographer, Teju Cole was born in the US and raised in Nigeria—a biographical fact that informs much of his work. His first novel, Open City, won the PEN/Hemingway Award. His second, Every Day Is for the Thief, was named a Book of the Year by The New York Times. Most recently, Cole produced Blind Spot—a synthesis of written observations and travel photography. 

“[Blind Spot] explores the mysteries of the ordinary. Cole’s questioning, tentative habit of mind, suspending judgement while hoping for the brief miracle of insight, is a form of what used to be called humanism.”

New York Times Books Review (Editors’ Choice)

As photography critic for The New York Times Magazine (a position he originated), Cole combines his eye for beauty with his capacity to perceive human and civic truth. He explores this convergence in Blind Spot: a gorgeous collection of his own full-color photos, each accompanied by selections of lyrical prose that explore “the mysteries of the ordinary” (The New York Times Book Review), and was named one of TIME’s Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2017.  His previous title, Known and Strange Things was also named to that same list in 2016, as well as Kirkus Reviews’ Best Nonfiction of 2016 list, and one of Harper’s Bazaar’s 13 Best Books of 2016. Known collects a series of essays that span art, literature, and politics, with topics from Virginia Woolf and James Baldwin to President Obama and Boko Haram. 

 

“Cole has earned flattering comparisons to literary heavyweights like J.M. Coetzee, W.G. Sebald and Henry James, but merits higher praise: [his novel, Open City, is] a profoundly original work, intellectually stimulating and possessing of a style both engaging and seductive.”

TIME
His first novel, Open City, was awarded the Rosenthal Family Foundation Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the New York City Book Award for Fiction, the Internationaler Literaturpreis, and the Windham Campbell Prize for Fiction; nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award, and a prize from the Royal Society of Literature; and was named one of the best books of the year The GuardianNewsweek, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and many others.
 
His novella, Every Day Is for the Thief, has been “widely praised as one of the best fictional depictions of Africa in recent memory” (The New Yorker) and was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, the TelegraphThe Globe and Mail, and NPR. 
 

“You’ll want to take your time reading this—it’s a heady mix of wit, nostalgia, pathos, and a genuine desire to untangle the world.”

The Atlantic on Known and Strange Things

Cole is a contributor to many leading journals and magazines. He has lectured widely on a variety of subjects, from contemporary ethics to literary studies. He teaches literature and art history at Bard College, where he is Distinguished Writer in Residence and Achebe Fellow. 

Testimonials

“We had a great time with Teju. He was brilliant, insightful, courteous, and really easy to deal with.”

University of British Columbia