Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole
Teju Cole is part of a new generation of African writers taking the literary world by storm.Teju’s works are primarily character-driven, interweaving the background of her native Nigeria, bread in America and social and political
Teju Cole is part of a new generation of African writers taking the literary world by storm.Teju’s works are primarily character-driven, interweaving the background of her native Nigeria, bread in America and social and political events into the narrative.
While his latest work Known and Strange (2016) is an insightful collection of more than fifty pieces on politics, photography, travel, history, and literature. The Political commentator Teju Cole solidifies his place as one of today’s most powerful and original voices. On page after page, deploying prose dense with beauty and ideas, he finds fresh and potent ways to interpret art, people, and historical moments, taking in subjects from Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and W. G. Sebald to Instagram, Barack Obama, and Boko Haram. Cole brings us new considerations of James Baldwin in the age of Black Lives Matter; the African American photographer Roy DeCarava, who, forced to shoot with film calibrated exclusively for white skin tones, found his way to a startling and true depiction of black subjects; and (in an essay that inspired both praise and pushback when it first appeared) the White Savior Industrial Complex, the system by which African nations are sentimentally aided by an America “developed on pillage.”
Persuasive and provocative, erudite yet accessible, Known and Strange Things is an opportunity to live within Teju Cole’s wide-ranging enthusiasms, curiosities, and passions, and a chance to see the world in surprising and affecting new frames. Written with wit in impeccable prose, this is a timely critique of a corrupt world power that would rather go blind than acknowledge the damage it has done.
Teju’s Known and Strange Things have been met with overwhelming praise:
“We have in Cole, a Nigerian American, a continuation of [James] Baldwin’s legacy; he’s an observer and truth-seeker of the highest order. . . . It is a joy to go inside the mind of someone for whom clever insight is second nature.”—The Seattle Times
“[A] dazzlingly wide-ranging collection.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“On every level of engagement and critique, Known and Strange Things is an essential and scintillating journey.”—Claudia Rankine, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)