Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.

— Teju Cole

The most sublime Teju Cole quotes that are life-changing and eye-opening

I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo.

You must keep an eye on it, for you know it is deadly.

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The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening.

10

We experience life as a continuity, and only after it falls away, after it becomes the past, do we see its discontinuities. The past, if there is such a thing, is mostly empty space, great expanses of nothing, in which significant persons and events float.

10

Not in this specific form. But all great cities are inhabited by ghosts. A book of this kind could probably be written about Jakarta, Manila, or London by anyone who had a feeling for the invisible truths of those places.

7

The energies of Lagos life- creative, malevolent, ambiguous- converge at the bus stops

6

I just realized that we're facing here is an empathy gap.

And this was just another way to generate conversation about something that nobody wanted to look at.

6

Perhaps this is what we mean by sanity: that, whatever our self-admitted eccentricities might be, we are not the villains of our own stories. In fact, it is quite the contrary: we play, and only play, the hero, and in the swirl of other people's stories, insofar as these stories concern us at all, we are never less than heroic.

5

The strange thing, though, is that most people who write novels these days seem to be aware of only a fraction of its possibilities. Kundera goes on and on about this, and I never tire of reading him on the subject, because I agree very deeply with it.

4

I'm not trying to be in your face and take a picture that is like a journalistic kind of image. I got interested in a kind of complicated, compiled, visual field.

4

Yes, there's a relaying of internal states that only a novel can achieve.

In my view, the novel is one of Europe's greatest gifts to the world. America and Africa collaborated to give the world jazz. We'll call it even.

4

A MOB is not, as is so often said, mindless. A MOB is single-minded.

3

You know that this vignette and that vignette belong side by side, you know that a certain turn of phrase you've been saving will probably work best within a given section of the narrative. As in a jazz performance, writing lives or dies by what's produced in that moment. But that moment is attended by long preparation.

2

About Teju Cole

Quotes 66 sayings
Profession Writer
Birthday June 27, 1975

I adore imaginary monsters, but I am terrified of real ones.

1

Sebald, Naipaul, and Joyce are three of my biggest influences, all of them for their formal freedom and their ability to create mood. So those comparisons are immensely flattering and, of course, unearned.

0

Being Nigerian is a strong part of my identity.

Being American is a strong part of my identity. And there are important parts of who I am that really have nothing to do with my national connection.

0

It wasn't a deception: all lovers live on partial knowledge.

0

Each time I caught sight of geese swooping in formation across the sky, I wondered how our life below might look from their perspective, and imagined that, were they ever to indulge in such speculation, the high-rises might seem to them like firs massed in a grove.

0

tried to focus on a particular aspect of this historical moment: the failure of mourning. This is something I haven't seen a great deal of in the writing around this disaster. And my view is that you write about disaster by writing around it, by writing allusively.

0

Not explicitly, no. Compared to this enormous, relentless evolutionary activity in the built environment, writing is small potatoes.

0

It's an Obama book, certainly. I was delighted, and astonished, to hear recently that he was reading it. It's a book about a new kind of American reality, one that takes diversity for granted. It doesn't celebrate diversity, actually, it just says: this is how we live now.

0

I couldn't remember what life was like before I started walking.

0

At the emergence of the modern novel with Rabelais and Cervantes, all kinds of things were possible in a long-form prose work. Within a couple of hundred years, most of those possibilities were abandoned in favor of a text that efficiently transmitted sentiments.

0

The creative part of oneself finds its way out.

In this case, I got interested particularly in the medium of Twitter and looked for ways to use it creatively.

0

Oh, I love labels, as long as they are numerous.

I'm an American writer. I'm a Nigerian writer. I'm a Nigerian American writer. I'm an African writer. I'm a Yoruba writer. I'm an African American writer. I'm a writer who's been strongly influenced by European precedents. I'm a writer who feels very close to literary practice in India - which I go to quite often - and to writers over there.

0

Joyce's writing in Dubliners contains some of the most unshowily beautiful sentences in the English language. I learned from him that if you write a good, clean line of English, you can get under a reader's skin. The reader won't even know why, but there you are. Didion, Berger, the many others I mentioned above, and many, many poets I haven't mentioned. Writers of this calibre are the moving targets the rest of us are always chasing.

0

Still, there's that faint glimmer of hope we feel when we sense, in other people, the same kind of attentiveness to life that we take comfort in. Why else would anyone watch Haneke films or read Sebald? The material is grim, but it's redeemed by the quality of the attention.

0

I suddenly feel a vague pity for all those writers who have to ply their trade from sleepy American suburbs, writing divorce scenes symbolized by the very slow washing of dishes.

0

So, for a book set in 2006, Open City evades certain markers, while it embraces certain others. Julius doesn't use a smartphone, and he doesn't discuss contemporary US politics in any fine detail.

0

What's interesting about Twitter is the unmediatedness of it, the directness of it. I'm on a train somewhere in New York and I send out a tweet. Somebody sitting at dinner in Bombay checks their phone and they see it.

0

The novelist can't successfully depict such horrifying reality.

But she can, and must, try, to bear witness. There are many ways of doing this; the mode I prefer is indirect.

0

Things don't go away just because you choose to forget them.

0

Life's too short for anxious score-keeping

0

To be alive, it seemed to me, as I stood there in all kinds of sorrow, was to be both original and reflection, and to be dead was to be split off, to be reflection alone.

0

The banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality.

The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm.

0

There is an expectation that we can talk about sins but no one must be identified as a sinner.

0

If you see a theme that you might want to take a photo of, you sort of stand there for an hour waiting for it to resolve, waiting for the geometry of a theme to be exactly what you want them to be. That was my process to get photos.

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It is dangerous to live in a secure world.

0

It takes a few years to understand what we've lived through.

At the moment, we're still sort of mired in the irrelevant bullshit. There isn't yet that public conversation about 9/11.

0

The content of Saul Leiter's photographs arrives on a sort of delay: it takes a moment after the first glance to know what the picture is about. You don't so much see the image as let it dissolve into your consciousness, like a tablet in a glass of water.

0

I'm not hopeful about America, and I'm not hopeful about the world, no.

Life goes on and, for those of us who are lucky, there's a great deal to enjoy in it. But will things get better for most people? I don't know. I don't see the evidence.

0

The novelist loses, every time. Politics is insidious, the modern conduct of war (from shoulder-launched rockets to drone strikes) is insidious. Someone presses a button in California and twenty people are incinerated at a wedding in Pakistan. The killer is spared the sight of the corpses.

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Echo is very important to me. I love the repetition of motifs, or the slight alteration of what's been said before. This is part of how one creates a mood, a psychological caul, in fact, around the reader.

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It is a work of psychogeography, albeit in a less explicit sense than Iain Sinclair's or Will Self's. It had to be fiction though, because I needed that freedom of including whatever belonged, and cutting out whatever didn't. The main fiction in it was matching Julius' generous and self-concealing character to New York's generous and self-concealing character. I think this also adds to my answer about New York's personality in the book.

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Note-taking is important to me: a week's worth of reading notes (or "thoughts I had in the shower" notes) is cumulatively more interesting than anything I might be able to come up with on a single given day.

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One of the difficulties of photography is that it is much better at being explicit than at being reticent.

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But a book suggests conversation: one person is speaking to another, and audible sound is, or should be, natural to that exchange. So I read aloud with myself as the audience, and gave voice to another's words.

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Writing as writing. Writing as rioting. Writing as righting. On the best days, all three.

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Perhaps this is what we mean by sanity: that, whatever our self-admitted eccentricities might be, we are not villains of our own stories.

0

The big idea behind it was to somehow participate in the discussion about justice. What does it mean to be just to the others out there whose lives we do not think about. One of the answers I came up with was simply tell their stories.

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