This is the fourth installment of an online series highlighting work by Black authors published in The Common. To read The Common’s statement in support of the nationwide protests against anti-Black racism, white supremacy, and police brutality, click here.
In Teju Cole’s Open City, Julius, a young Nigerian-German psychiatrist living in New York, wanders the city. For Julius, “the walks [meet] a need: they [are] a release from the tightly regulated mental environment of work….Every decision—where to turn left, how long to remain lost in thought…—[is] inconsequential, and [is] for that reason a reminder of freedom.” For readers, Julius’ meandering serves as a platform for meditations on history, art, human suffering, race, and culture, and the cumulative effect is anything but inconsequential. To call Open City a novel is like calling the White House a house: although it’s structured around a protagonist, it is driven by perceptiveness, the agility with which it moves from one idea to another, and its humanity.