‘Black Paper’ by Teju Cole

Simukai Chigudu at The Guardian:

A young Gambian man, let’s call him D, waits in Syracuse. He arrived in Italy eight months previously, having been smuggled into the country by boat from Libya. D has an easy-going, intelligent manner – an unexpected grace given what he has endured. At a rendezvous with his companion for the afternoon, Teju Cole, D confesses that he has never set foot in a church: he was raised Muslim. As the two of them enter Santa Lucia alla Badia together, he is amazed that no one questions his presence. What a rare taste of unencumbered movement. The pair gaze in awe at Caravaggio’s early 17th-century painting Burial of Saint Lucy. It is enormous: 10ft across, more than 13ft tall. Centuries have passed and the effects of time show in the damage to large areas of paint, but the work is no less magnificent for it.

This vignette takes place in the first essay of Cole’s astonishing new collection.

more here.