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Teju Cole Discusses Twitter, Small Fates and Open City

Open CityTeju Cole has had a busy year of interviews and appearances after the publication of Open City, which won the PEN/Hemingway Prize and was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Award. As well as being praised for his novel, the Nigerian-American author has been in the public eye due to the attention his Small Fates project has received. The fait divers, as they are also known, provide a glimpse into the everyday world and lived experiences of people that many around the world might not ordinarily seek to know. Cole was recently one of the judges for the inaugural Twitter Fiction Festival, an event which was partly inspired by Small Fates.

Eleanor Wachtel recently interviewed Cole for a CBC’s Writers and Company podcast. The Lavin Daily wrote about Cole’s speech at the Twitter Fiction Festival where he said that “Twitter is the real stream of consciousness” and Tara Conley wrote about a talk he gave at Columbia University for HASTAC:

Nigerian-American novelist Teju Cole’s novel, Open City – described by The Atlantic as “a psychological hand-grenade” – was named a best book on more than twenty end-of-the-year lists, including The New Yorker, The New Republic and The Economist.

Social media may indeed be more than just an outlet for sharing what you had for lunch, or funny pictures of animals, according to Teju Cole. “Twitter is the real stream of consciousness,” he said at the recent Twitter Fiction Festival. He was chosen to host the event thanks to his creative use of the social media site as a new medium for serial storytelling. In his project Small Fates, Cole embraced digital technology in the creative process by cleverly—and skillfully—using the 140 character word limit to tell compact narratives of life in Lagos, Nigeria. While some may argue that social media sites like Twitter are a threat to traditional literature, Cole treats it instead as a way to revisit the “fait divers,” style of the past in a modern way. He uses the platform to share content, he says, but he does so in a more literary way than most.

Last night, I had the pleasure of sitting in on an informal class talk with novelist, Teju Cole. Among the many topics Cole discussed was his latest project Small Fates. For those who are unfamiliar, Small Fates (see also here and here) is a project Cole has been working on while writing a narrative based on everyday life in Lagos, Nigeria. Cole explains, “I found myself drawn to the ‘small’ news. I began to read the metro sections of newspapers.” Cole notes that he needed an outlet to further explore these odd momentary happenings around the city.

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