By Teju Cole
With this selection of greater than fifty items on politics, images, trip, background, and literature, Teju Cole solidifies his position as one in all today’s strongest and unique voices. On web page after web page, deploying prose dense with attractiveness and ideas, he reveals clean and effective how one can interpret artwork, humans, and old moments, taking in matters from Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and W. G. Sebald to Instagram, Barack Obama, and Boko Haram. Cole brings us new issues of James Baldwin within the age of Black Lives topic; the African American photographer Roy DeCarava, who, pressured to shoot with movie calibrated completely for white dermis tones, chanced on his approach to a startling and precise depiction of black matters; and (in an essay that encouraged either compliment and pushback while it first seemed) the White Savior commercial complicated, the procedure during which African international locations are sentimentally aided via an the USA “developed on pillage.”
Persuasive and provocative, erudite but obtainable, Known and unusual Things is a chance to reside inside of Teju Cole’s wide-ranging enthusiasms, curiosities, and passions, and an opportunity to determine the realm in staggering and affecting new frames.
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Additional resources for Known and strange things: Essays
There was bad weather the day I went up, rain and fog, but that was good luck, as it meant I was alone on the trails. While there, I remembered a story that Lucien Happersberger told about Baldwin going out on a hike in these mountains. Baldwin had lost his footing during the ascent, and the situation was precarious for a moment. But Happersberger, who was an experienced climber, reached out a hand, and Baldwin was saved. It was out of this frightening moment, this appealingly biblical moment, that Baldwin got the title for the book he had been struggling to write: Go Tell It on the Mountain.
The pointlessness and the wasted effort of these dead-end attempts give the novel a comic edge that links it both to picaresque and to the existentialist tradition. Futility is the way home. In the search, Mr. Biswas carries his meager possessions and his growing family along, from one unsuitable house to another, from Hanuman House to The Chase to Green Vale to Shorthills to a rental in Port of Spain. These residences are mere walls and roofs to Mr. Biswas. His tragedy is not only that none of them is a house for him, but that his awareness of the poor fit is acute and constant.
I value Naipaul for his travel narratives, for his visits to the so-called dark places of the earth, the patient way he teases out complicated nonfictional stories from his various interlocutors in Iran, Indonesia, India, and elsewhere. I like India: A Million Mutinies Now, Among the Believers, and the long essay “The Crocodiles of Yamoussoukro,” which, uncomfortable as they are in parts, also have the force of revelation. They are courageous not because they voice unpopular, and sometimes wrongheaded, opinion, but for the opposite reason: the books contain little opinion and are, rather, artful compressions of dozens of conversations.
Known and strange things: Essays by Teju Cole