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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
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Invisible Man (original 1952; edition 1995)

by Ralph Ellison

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10,314122279 (3.98)504
Member:Alan_S_Hirsch
Title:Invisible Man
Authors:Ralph Ellison
Info:Vintage (1995), Edition: 2, Paperback, 608 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952)

1950s (26)
1940s (17)
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English (118)  Dutch (1)  All languages (119)
Showing 1-5 of 118 (next | show all)
A great novel about identity, race, and the absurdity sometimes found in life.
Great quotes through out but my favorite was in the epilogue: "Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat. Our fate is to become one, and yet many- This is not prophecy, but description."
and also the last sentence: "Who know but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?" and he does speak for the disenfranchised, voiceless, and the powerless with the wisdom he has gained. ( )
  Kristin_Kern | Feb 2, 2016 |
This is one of those books that speaks to us in different ways at different times in our lives (and calls to us to be re-read for this reason). Parts of it are dreamlike/nightmarish and other parts are brutally real. Parts of it might also be considered dated, but when it was published it was certainly groundbreaking. Many of us are still invisible and still need to be given a voice. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
I really enjoyed this but saw too much of Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in it to be too impressed. Good writing style, a few twists and turns of the plot, a certain amount of empathy towards the characters and a good suspense story. But I'm not sure it belongs on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. ( )
  sashinka | Jan 14, 2016 |
Classic, wonderfully read, and with a devastating view of being black in America... The unnamed narrator is not all that likable, and there really isn't much of a plot... at 18-1/2 hours, it does drag a bit, but an important piece of American literature nonetheless. ( )
  DavidO1103 | Sep 12, 2015 |
"I am an invisible man," states the forever nameless narrator. "When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything and anything except me." So starts the story. Expelled from a southern Negro college for nothing he did wrong our young nameless guide goes to New York to find his fortune. Sadly he learns that things and people are not often what they seem and even the best intentioned folks will use you to meet their ends and then stab you in the back.

Through vignettes shared from the narrators life the reader gets a taste of what life was like for a black man living in a time of social and racial upheaval. Some are humorous, some are heart wrenching and some are truly disturbing. So disturbing that our narrator finds it preferable to live as a recluse in a basement than to encounter society.

In discussing this book with another avid reader we discovered that is speaks to different people in different ways, which is always the sign of a truly good book well worth reading. We never did agree on what the ending meant! This is a beautifully written book well deserving of the accolades and awards it received when first published. And, unfortunately despite the fact that it was published 60 years ago many of the issues are still unresolved.
( )
2 vote ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 118 (next | show all)
added by Shortride | editCommentary, Saul Bellow (Jul 15, 2009)
 
this is the kind of multi-layered literary and philosophical performance that we, as citizens concerned about the health of our republic, are obliged to re-read every ten or twenty years in order to check its insights and monitions against our cultural (and personal) progress and failures.
 
"Invisible Man" is tough, brutal and sensational. It is uneven in quality. But it blazes with authentic talent.
 

» Add other authors (29 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ellison, Ralphprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ellison, RalphIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
"You are saved," cried Captain Delano, more and more astonished and pained; "you are saved: what has cast such a shadow upon you?"

--Herman Melville, Benito Cereno
HARRY: I tell you, it is not me you are looking at,

Not me you arre grinning at, not me your confidential looks

Incriminate, but that other person, if person,

You thought I was: let your necrophily

Feed upon that carcase. . . .

--T. S. Eliot, Family Reunion
Dedication
To Ida
First words
"I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679732764, Paperback)

We rely, in this world, on the visual aspects of humanity as a means of learning who we are. This, Ralph Ellison argues convincingly, is a dangerous habit. A classic from the moment it first appeared in 1952, Invisible Man chronicles the travels of its narrator, a young, nameless black man, as he moves through the hellish levels of American intolerance and cultural blindness. Searching for a context in which to know himself, he exists in a very peculiar state. "I am an invisible man," he says in his prologue. "When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything and anything except me." But this is hard-won self-knowledge, earned over the course of many years.

As the book gets started, the narrator is expelled from his Southern Negro college for inadvertently showing a white trustee the reality of black life in the south, including an incestuous farmer and a rural whorehouse. The college director chastises him: "Why, the dumbest black bastard in the cotton patch knows that the only way to please a white man is to tell him a lie! What kind of an education are you getting around here?" Mystified, the narrator moves north to New York City, where the truth, at least as he perceives it, is dealt another blow when he learns that his former headmaster's recommendation letters are, in fact, letters of condemnation.

What ensues is a search for what truth actually is, which proves to be supremely elusive. The narrator becomes a spokesman for a mixed-race band of social activists called "The Brotherhood" and believes he is fighting for equality. Once again, he realizes he's been duped into believing what he thought was the truth, when in fact it is only another variation. Of the Brothers, he eventually discerns: "They were blind, bat blind, moving only by the echoed sounds of their voices. And because they were blind they would destroy themselves.... Here I thought they accepted me because they felt that color made no difference, when in reality it made no difference because they didn't see either color or men."

Invisible Man is certainly a book about race in America, and sadly enough, few of the problems it chronicles have disappeared even now. But Ellison's first novel transcends such a narrow definition. It's also a book about the human race stumbling down the path to identity, challenged and successful to varying degrees. None of us can ever be sure of the truth beyond ourselves, and possibly not even there. The world is a tricky place, and no one knows this better than the invisible man, who leaves us with these chilling, provocative words: "And it is this which frightens me: Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?" --Melanie Rehak

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:06 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In the course of his wanderings from a Southern Negro college to New York's Harlem, an American black man becomes involved in a series of adventures. Introduction explains circumstances under which the book was written. Ellison won the National Book Award for this searing record of a black man's journey through contemporary America. Unquestionably, Ellison's book is a work of extraordinary intensity--powerfully imagined and written with a savage, wryly humorous gusto.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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