22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Teju Cole

Portrait Teju Cole
© Hartwig Klappert

Teju Cole was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1975, but grew up in Lagos with his parents from Nigeria. He returned to the USA in 1992, for him »a country of which I had been a citizen my whole life, and yet it was a country I only knew from hearsay, and which I am still figuring out«, as he said in an interview with the »New Yorker«.

In 2007 his novella »Every Day is for the Thief« hit the market. It is the story of a young Nigerian, who returns to his hometown after many years in the diaspora. Cole focuses on his hero’s quest for an identity, and in doing so paints a picture of the transformation the country is currently undergoing. Cole’s first novel »Open City» (2011) also reflects the writer’s own background. Julius, the first-person narrator of the book, is a fellow at a research centre, and strolls through the streets of New York. He is the silent observer, who explores the city by walking it, and appropriates it in his own way. In the inner monologues of the urban wanderer the reader learns more about his childhood in Lagos, and his isolation and alienation in the USA. Cole’s prose is marked by eloquence, deliberateness and sensitive perception. In addition to eclectic references to artists, writers, musicians and philosophers, W.G. Sebald and Joyce’s »Dubliners« story »The Dead« serve as models. »Open City« received the prestigious Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Cole is currently working on a non-fiction book about Lagos. The biggest city in Africa is the fastest growing metropolis of the world, and for Cole one of the »most complex, exiting and interesting« places that exist. The literary documentation is based on the author’s own experiences and conversations with the citizens. Inspired by Félix Fénéon’s »faits divers«, Cole turns findings from his urban investigation also into miniature stories, which are no longer than a twitter tweet. For his project »small fates« he adopts a similar approach: These microblogs deal with incidents and events in New York that happened exactly 100 years ago.

Cole writes for various newspapers and literary magazines, including the »New York Times«, »Qarrtsiluni« and »Tin House«. He teaches at the Columbia, Hofra and New York University, and is currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Bard College, New York. The writer, who is also a passionate street photographer, will show his pictures in an exhibition called »Fire Script« in Panaji, India, in December 2012. Cole lives in Brooklyn, New York.

© internationales literaturfestival berlin