De Nigeriaans-Amerikaanse schrijver, fotograaf en kunsthistoricus Teju Cole werd geboren op 27 juni 1975 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Cole en zijn moeder keerden kort na zijn geboorte terug naar Lagos, Nigeria, waar zijn vader zich na het behalen van zijn MBA aan de Western Michigan University bij hen voegde. Cole ging op 17-jarige leeftijd terug naar de VS om een jaar lang te studeren aan de Western Michigan University, waarna hij overstapte naar Kalamazoo College, waar hij in 1996 zijn bachelor behaalde. Een studie medicijnen aan de Universiteit van Michigan gaf hij op om zichin te schrijven voor een programma Afrikaanse kunstgeschiedenis aan de School of Oriental and African Studies en uiteindelijk behaalde hij een doctoraat in de kunstgeschiedenis aan de Columbia University. Cole schreef drie boeken: een novelle: “Every Day is for the Thief”, een roman, Open City en een verzameling van meer dan 40 essays: “Known and Strange Things”, gepubliceerd in 2016. Van juni tot november 2014 was hij ‘writer in residence’ van de Literaturhaus Zürich en de PWG Foundation in Zurich. “Open City” werd vertaald in tien talen en over het algemeen door de critici positief ontvangen. Cole levert regelmatig bijdragen aan The New York Times, Qarrtsiluni, Granta, The New Yorker, Transition, The New Inquiry, en A Public Space en hij is fotografie criticus van New York Times Magazine.
Uit: Open City
“And so when I began to go on evening walks last fall, I found Morningside Heights an easy place from which to set out into the city. The path that drops down from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and crosses Morningside Park is only fifteen minutes from Central Park. In the other direction, going west, it is some ten minutes to Sakura Park, and walking northward from there brings you toward Harlem, along the Hudson, though traffic makes the river on the other side of the trees inaudible. These walks, a counterpoint to my busy days at the hospital, steadily lengthened, taking me farther and farther afield each time, so that I often found myself at quite a distance from home late at night, and was compelled to return home by subway. In this way, at the beginning of the final year of my psychiatry fellowship, New York City worked itself into my life at walking pace.
Not long before this aimless wandering began, I had fallen into the habit of watching bird migrations from my apartment, and I wonder now if the two are connected. On the days when I was home early enough from the hospital, I used to look out the window like someone taking auspices, hoping to see the miracle of natural immigration. 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. Often, as I searched the sky, all I saw was rain, or the faint contrail of an airplane bisecting the window, and I doubted in some part of myself whether these birds, with their dark wings and throats, their pale bodies and tireless little hearts, really did exist. So amazed was I by them that I couldn’t trust my memory when they weren’t there.
Pigeons flew by from time to time, as did sparrows, wrens, orioles, tanagers, and swifts, though it was almost impossible to identify the birds from the tiny, solitary, and mostly colorless specks I saw fizzing across the sky. While I waited for the rare squadrons of geese, I would sometimes listen to the radio. I generally avoided American stations, which had too many commercials for my taste — Beethoven followed by ski jackets, Wagner after artisanal cheese — instead tuning to Internet stations from Canada, Germany, or the Netherlands. And though I often couldn’t understand the announcers, my comprehension of their languages being poor, the programming always met my evening mood with great exactness. Much of the music was familiar, as I had by this point been an avid listener to classical radio for more than fourteen years, but some of it was new. There were also rare moments of astonishment, like the first time I heard, on a station broadcasting from Hamburg, a bewitching piece for orchestra and alto solo by Shchedrin (or perhaps it was Ysaÿe) which, to this day, I have been unable to identify.