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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man (original 1952; edition 1995)

by Ralph Ellison (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
16,162211316 (4)1 / 681
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)
Title:Invisible Man
Authors:Ralph Ellison (Author)
Info:Vintage Books (1995), Edition: 2nd, 581 pages
Collections:Your library

Work Information

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952)

  1. 30
    The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois (GabrielF)
  2. 10
    Native Son by Richard Wright (Cecrow)
  3. 10
    Quicksand by Nella Larsen (aspirit)
  4. 22
    The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (chrisharpe)
  5. 00
    Small Island by Andrea Levy (tcarter)
  6. 00
    Black and Conservative by George Samuel Schuyler (M_Clark)
    M_Clark: This very cynical novel takes place during the same time period as "The Invisible Man" and provides additional perspectives on race during the post WWII years.
  7. 00
    This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga (aspirit)
    aspirit: Describes the life a modern African woman to contrast with that of the historical African-American man. Similar tone.
  8. 02
    Big Machine: A Novel by Victor LaValle (goddesspt2)
  9. 05
    Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (kara.shamy)
1940s (29)
1950s (40)
AP Lit (236)
Florida (207)
My TBR (106)

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» See also 681 mentions

English (200)  Spanish (3)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Dutch (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (206)
Showing 1-5 of 200 (next | show all)
I'm glad to have finally read this brilliant American classic, which I somehow have avoided or overlooked since I first heard of it back in high school. Chapter 1 is nothing less than an encapsulation of the entire history of the United States told as a brutal, ugly, incredibly racist "battle royale". Overall, this is the coming of age story of a young African American man, told in first person, who starts out as a naive but conflicted product of the Jim Crow south, and who has been indoctrinated with the ideas of Booker T. Washington while attending a historic Black college. From that point we follow him to Harlem where he sheds all his illusions and delusions and becomes "invisible", living underground off the grid so to speak, and surviving in some way that is hidden from us. We learn how he gets there and what might happen next. Along the way he becomes prominent in the Brotherhood (the American Communist Party, I guess) and these chapters are tense and frustrating. Run by white people, the organization blatantly and hyprocritically exploits Black people for its own ends, which are, confusing, contradictory, and incoherent. One day they adore Mr. Invisible, the next they are denouncing him internally and threatening him with...something. They are very big on being "scientific" and whitesplaining the hell out of their activities in Harlem. At any rate, when we reach the end, Mr. Invisible appears ready to emerge from underground, just in time for the civil rights movement and all that has happened since. Seventy years after its publication, this novel is still incredibly relevant. ( )
1 vote Octavia78 | Jan 4, 2024 |
One of the great American novels of the 20th Century....
  Mark_Feltskog | Dec 23, 2023 |
This was an excellent book. The prose was evocative in a way that reminds me of what creative writing teachers try to encourage but fail to describe. The narrative flows despite the brutal topics. I'll admit that the resolution of the story itself is not entirely clear to me; I didn't have the revelation that the main character had. Still, it is easily the best-written work of fiction that I've read in a long time. ( )
  cmayes | Dec 21, 2023 |
In this novel a young, black, undergraduate college student from the South moves north to live in New York City after he is expelled from college near the end of his junior year. He somehow has survived his whole life so far as a seriously naive, trusting soul who has no clue that rich White dudes might not be acting in his best interests. So, when he is handed a stack of sealed 'letters of introduction' to rich White dudes in New York City, and he's told to take a year off of college and gain some life experience up north, he takes all this at face value and heads off on a bus the very next day to enjoy this new adventure he's been granted. And, of course, the reality of his situation is a lot less rosy than he imagines.
I found this book annoying, because of the main character mostly. I know college kids can be awfully naive and dense, but it was still hard to believe that a young man growing up steeped in the heavily racist South, and attending college there, would not have developed some more survival traits in his young life prior to his New York adventure. His trusting nature seemed overly contrived. The situations he finds himself in once in New York might have happened anyway, trusting nature or not, so the story held together, but this was not the best book I have read in the US race relations vein. It was ok, though, probably worth reading, and an interesting perspective on the intersection between race activism and Communist activity during the mid-20th century. ( )
  JBarringer | Dec 15, 2023 |
Well done story of a not pleasant life. ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 12, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 200 (next | show all)
In one of the great novels of black consciousness, Ellison, writing in the early 1950s, renders black as "invisible".
added by vibesandall | editThe Guardian (UK), Peter Forbes (Mar 16, 2011)
It’s the quintessential American picaresque of the 20th century.
added by vibesandall | editTime, Lev Grossman (Jan 7, 2010)
A book of the very first order, a superb book.
added by vibesandall | editSaul Bellow
"Invisible Man" is tough, brutal and sensational.
added by vibesandall | editThe New York Times, Orville Prescott (Apr 16, 1952)

» Add other authors (65 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ralph Ellisonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Callahan, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goyert, GeorgÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
James, Peter FrancisNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, CharlesPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morton, JoeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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"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
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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141184426, 014119491X


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