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Literary Cosmopolitanisms in Teju Cole's Every Day is for the Thief and Open City.

Katherine Hallemeier

Abstract


This paper examines cosmopolitanism in Teju Cole’s Every Day is for the Thief (2007) and Open City (2011). The protagonists of both novels maintain cosmopolitan identities largely by embracing an international literary culture in which elite cosmopolitan fiction relays the experiences of marginalized cosmopolitan subjects, such as the migrant worker and the refugee. The novels, however, suggest the parochialism of the protagonists’ cosmopolitan sensibilities by introducing characters, namely the “yahoo boys” and Farouq, who possess, respectively, creative resilience and language skills that the protagonists lack. Cole’s novels thus foreground the limits of a literary cosmopolitanism that privileges Anglophone fiction published in New York and London, while gesturing toward alternative literary cosmopolitanisms that are notable for their linguistic and geographical diversity, if not their glamour. Although Farouq and the “yahoo boys” aspire to membership in an elite cosmopolitan culture, their lives are non-spectacular and relatively immobile. Cole’s novels, however, value a cosmopolitan literariness that neither hails from the intellectual cosmopolitan elite nor takes the dispossessed cosmopolitan migrant for its subject.


Keywords


Teju Cole; cosmopolitanism; translation; publishing

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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