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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man (original 1952; edition 1952)

by Ralph Ellison

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10,988133256 (3.98)570
Title:Invisible Man
Authors:Ralph Ellison
Info:Vintage (1995), Edition: 2, Paperback, 608 pages
Collections:Your library

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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952)

1950s (26)
1940s (18)

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English (129)  Dutch (1)  Norwegian (1)  All (131)
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
What to say about it, except that it is a masterpiece of 20th-century American literature. I think the amazing thing is the range that the novel shows, modulating from the absurdist picaresque of the first part to the incredible rage and sorrow of the final part. It is a brilliant portrait of both blackness and whiteness in mid-century America. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
I am giving this book 5 stars even though I did not enjoy reading it. A classic that somehow passed me by years ago, Invisible Man recounts the existential story of a black man who goes through life trying to find his identity and purpose in a bleak world. At times the story seems surreal, and I am sure parts of it went over my head. The experiences the narrator, who is given no name, describes are often brutal and confusing. The story itself is rather circular and ethereal in an evil sort of way. Which is why I can't say I 'enjoyed' this story. But this is a very good book, well written and worth reading. I might even re-read it someday. ( )
  homeschoolmimzi | Nov 28, 2016 |
If you are the typical reader - that is to say, not a PhD in English literature - you cannot read this book on your own and truly understand it. Read this book with a teacher well-versed in the novel and its context in literature and society. Then you can appreciate it. (Oh, and listen to it on CD. The actor who reads it is amazing.) ( )
  csoki637 | Nov 27, 2016 |
I am amazed that this book was written and published in the United States in the 1950s. A frank discussion of race relations in New York/Harlem at the time. ( )
  kale.dyer | Oct 23, 2016 |
This is a wonderful book that I'll probably have to read multiple times to truly be able to comprehend it. It won the National Book Award in 1953.

Its about an African American man who is "invisible" to the world around him, solely on fact of who he is. From his time as a young man, he is the valedictorian of his high school, but is is forced to fight other young black men in a "battle royal" in front of white business leaders in order to vie for a scholarship. To, his time in NYC working for an urban organizing group called the Brotherhood, where his earnest efforts to work for the people of Harlem get nowhere and "progress" comes thru rioting.

A book that I believe has profound impacts still today, especially in light of the BLM movements. I was hooked by Ellison's eloquent prose in his introduction.

Some quotes that struck me (probably more than I should post, oh well):

"But that's getting too far ahead of the story, almost to the end, although the end is in the beginning and lies far ahead"

"Power doesn't have to show off. Power is confident, self-assuring, self-starting, and self-stopping, self-warming and self-justifying. When you have it, you know it"

"A clock ticked with empty urgency, as though trying to catch up with the time."

"I watched them, feeling very young and inexperienced and yet strangely old, with an oldness that watched and waited quietly within me."


S: 8/5/16 - F: 9/23/16 (50 Days) ( )
  mahsdad | Oct 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
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.
What to say about it, except that it is a masterpiece of 20th-century American literature. I think the amazing thing is the range that the novel shows, modulating from the absurdist picaresque of the first part to the incredible rage and sorrow of the final part. It is a brilliant portrait of both blackness and whiteness in mid-century America
"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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"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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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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Legacy Library: Ralph Ellison

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