From an interview with Men’s Journal
Is there one book that’s affected you tremendously or changed your life?

Let me suggest a book called Here Is Where We Meet. It’s by a writer called John Berger. It was pretty life-changing for me. It’s a collection of short stories; it has eight and a half short stories. They’re all based on life, but they’re all fiction. It’s the way that he handles that fictionality that really affected my writing.John Berger is quite an old man; he’s in his eighties. What he does in these stories is, he’ll write a story about someone he once knew who is now dead. He tells true stories about how he knows them or what they mean to him, but the stories are about encounters he has with them after they’ve died. Things like meeting his long-dead mother in Lisbon and going for a walk with her. It feels very diaristic and very real. The porousness of that border between what we can prove, what’s easily accessible, and what takes more face and openness — it was really interesting to me, how he handled that. He doesn’t take it from a religious point of view at all. [Read More]

Claudia Rankine (The New York Times) reviews a collection of the writer and photographer’s essays
Cole_Teju-_R_TejuCole
Teju Cole

Teju Cole’s captivating and lauded novels, “Open City” and “Every Day Is for the Thief,” reflect his identity as a writer with a global perspective — born in the United States and raised in Nigeria. His international access as an author, art historian and photographer — one who also teaches and is a photography critic for The New York Times Magazine — shapes not only his obsessions but, in a chicken-and-egg sense, determines his gaze. He takes in news from African countries and American cities; but also, by necessity and interest, Asian, European and Latin American culture and history. In short, the world belongs to Cole and is thornily and gloriously allied with his curiosity and his personhood. “Known and Strange Things,” his first collection of nonfiction, journeys through all the landscapes he has access to: international, personal, cultural, technological and emotional. When he feels homesick, he informs us in this book, he “visits” his parents in Nigeria through Google maps — a sweet if distant form of connection. (more…)

Back in April, Sarah Werkmeister interviewed Indonesian writer Aan Mansyur for the Emerging Writers Festival. Here is what he had to say…
Aan Mansyur
Aan Mansyur

Tell us about your writing style. What are your influences, passions and the messages that you try to convey in your work?

I write poems and prose. In every piece I write, I’m trying to say different things in different ways. I often think that writing is how I discover things, rather than an exercise in telling readers things I already know.

What are some of the challenges you face in the writing process, and what tips would you give to aspiring writers to overcome these?

I’m a lazy writer. I like to spend my time reading books instead of writing. I also can’t write in crowded places unlike other writers, although I live in library which is quite packed with visitors. I try to allocate two to three hours daily at early dawn while everyone else is still asleep, to read books I admire and recommendations from my favorite authors. This is how I learn and a solution to my laziness. Reading books is good, they make me feel haunted and keep me awake so I ended up writing. (more…)

An extract from James Wood’s 2011 review of Open City for the New Yorker
Teju Cole, Open City
Teju Cole, Open City
Publishers now pitch their books like Hollywood concepts, so Teju Cole’s first novel, “Open City” (Random House; $25), is being offered as especially appealing to “readers of Joseph O’Neill and Zadie Smith,” and written in a prose that “will remind you” of W. G. Sebald and J. M. Coetzee. This is shorthand for “post-colonialism in New York” (O’Neill), “lively multiracial themes” (Smith), “free-flowing form with no plot, narrated by a scholarly solitary walker” (Sebald), “obviously serious” (Coetzee), and “finely written” (all of the above). There is the additional comedy that Cole’s publishers, determined to retain the baby with the bathwater, boldly conjoin Smith and O’Neill, despite Smith’s hostility, advertised in an essay entitled “Two Paths for the Novel,” to O’Neill’s expensive and upholstered “lyrical realism.”

(more…)