Teju Cole: Innovative Disrupter, Author, Essayist…He Just Thinks Differently!

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Not afraid to be contrary; to go against the tide; to question and even dismiss the popular flow of thought; a disrupter…

Those are the words that quickly come to mind as I read about, research and engage in deciphering the person of Teju Cole.

Credit: Tejucole.com
Credit: Tejucole.com

A Nigerian-American, Teju Cole is a Writer, Photographer, Art Historian, Lecturer and Socio-Political analyst. Born in the United States in 1975 to Nigerian parents, Teju Cole was raised in Nigeria but subsequently relocated to the United States.

A Distinguished Writer in Residence and Achebe Fellow at Bard College, where he teaches Literature and Art History, Teju is the author of two books; a novella, ‘Every Day is for the Thief’, a New York Times Editors’ Pick, and a novel, ‘Open City’, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the New York City Book Award for Fiction, the Rosenthal Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Internationaler Literaturpreis, and 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. The German-language translation by Christine Richter-Nilsson won the International Literature Award and was included in Time magazine’s “Best Books of the Year” in 2011.

Open City was translated into ten languages and has received rave reviews from renowned literary critics. James Wood in The New Yorker called it a “beautiful, subtle, and, finally, original novel”; while Time referred to the novel as “a profoundly original work, intellectually stimulating and possessing of a style both engaging and seductive.”

‘Every day for the Thief’ started as a series of blog posts about his trip to Lagos, Nigeria in thirteen years.  In his words via interviewmagazine.com

In the writing, the story became a little distanced from my own narrative. It was a way of grappling with the trip. It became fiction but it still stayed quite close to the experience. I set up this blog and I did one post a day for 30 days—a 30-day writing experiment, which got quite a number of readers and people telling each other, “This guy’s writing about Lagos in a somewhat different way than we’re used to.” When the experiment ended, the blog disappeared. I took it offline.”

A profound essayist, Teju Cole is a contributor to the New York Times, the New Yorker, Qarrtsiluni, the Atlantic, Granta, Aperture, Transition, A Public Space, and several other magazines. He equally serves as contributing editor at the New Inquiry.

His articles and essays are seemingly effortless, intensive, factual and riveting; they are also disruptive as Teju pays no mind to the zeitgeist in his razor sharp deliveries.

Credit: Tejucole.com
Credit: Tejucole.com

A Lecturer of note, Teju has been invited as a speaker at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Twitter Headquarters, and the 2014 Kenan Distinguished Lecture in Ethics at Duke University.

Described as a Twitter aphorist, Teju Cole has re-invented that social media space of 140 characters into a platform for amazing exposes; both literary and political. One of such Twitter projects (“small fates”) involved taking news reports from New York newspapers of 1912 or from contemporary Nigeria and rewriting them in the ironic and epigrammatic style of Félix Fénéon.

His commentary on the trending hashtag #BringBackOurGirls would be just another example of the thinker who thinks outside the box and communicates his thoughts creatively and intelligently. As the saying goes in Nigeria, “If you don’t check out Teju’s thoughts on a matter, you might be OYO –‘On Your Own.’

“Whatever concerns the pain of others is impossible writing made briefly possible. After lightning, night is still night.” @TejuCole via Twitter.

© 2014 – 2017, Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya. All rights reserved.

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