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First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison's nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison's nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be. As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying "battle royal" where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison's nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.


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First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison's nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison's nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be. As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying "battle royal" where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison's nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.

30 review for Invisible Man

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    Full disclosure: I wrote my master's thesis on Ellison's novel because I thought the first time that I read it that it is one of the most significant pieces of literature from the 20th century. Now that I teach it in my AP English class, I've reread it many times, and I'm more convinced than ever that if you are only going to read one book in your life, it should be this one. The unnamed protagonist re-enacts the diaspora of African-Americans from the South to the North--and the surreal experien Full disclosure: I wrote my master's thesis on Ellison's novel because I thought the first time that I read it that it is one of the most significant pieces of literature from the 20th century. Now that I teach it in my AP English class, I've reread it many times, and I'm more convinced than ever that if you are only going to read one book in your life, it should be this one. The unnamed protagonist re-enacts the diaspora of African-Americans from the South to the North--and the surreal experience of racism, rage, and manipulation rarely expressed with such force and eloquence. Ellison follows tried and true patterns from dramatic ritual to spell out his invisible man's journey from cocksure teenager to furious refugee hiding out in a basement in Harlem. The last lines of the book are haunting and almost hopeful through the despair.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rowena

    “I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fibre and liquids- and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible because people refuse to see me…When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination- indeed, everything and anything except me.” When I first read the book last year, the above quote really stood out to me. It seemed very Dostevskyan. It has taken a second reading for me to truly process the content of this book, and still I can “I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fibre and liquids- and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible because people refuse to see me…When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination- indeed, everything and anything except me.” When I first read the book last year, the above quote really stood out to me. It seemed very Dostevskyan. It has taken a second reading for me to truly process the content of this book, and still I can’t exactly say I understand all the symbolism. I really enjoy coming of age books and this one is no exception. The book starts off with the narrator attending a college in the American South. Due to some events I won’t get into he moves to Harlem to look for work. We see the maturing process of the narrator as he goes from being an innocent boy to one who begins to question his identity but can’t seem to reconcile it with his role as a black man in (racist) 1950s America. And like any coming-of-age story, there is a lot of interior and external conflict. It’s hard to really summarize this book because so much goes on. Of course the main issue is about race and how it was for a person of colour living in a racist society at the time. The book also gets political when it outlines different possible approaches for racial integration, one more radical than the other. All in all a great book, a book which I will probably have to read again (or discuss it with someone!) to understand it better.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs

    Invisible Man is an extremely well written and intelligent novel full of passion, fire and energy: it’s such a force to be reckoned with in the literary world, and not one to be taken lightly. “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 imaginatio Invisible Man is an extremely well written and intelligent novel full of passion, fire and energy: it’s such a force to be reckoned with in the literary world, and not one to be taken lightly. “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.” The biggest question the novel raises evolves around identity (or lack thereof) in a world that demands we conform and meet the expectations of others. The unnamed protagonist becomes invisible, well he feels invisible, because the world cannot accept his opinions, desires and intellectual freedom: he must think, act and talk in a way he is told; thus, his personality vanishes as he becomes what he must. He cannot form his own identity because every time he creates a sense of individualism he is knocked back because his expression of self does no adhere to someone’s wishes. And this lack of self prevents him from finding any sense of belonging because wherever he goes he is not himself. And this isn’t just about blackness in the face of a white society. This isn’t just about the postcolonial state of slavery and hybrid identity in the face of a supposed freedom from the shackles that bound the blacks to their masters; this is about American society at large: it’s about the world at large. “When I discover who I am, I'll be free.” And that’s what makes the novel so powerfully emotive and raw. The narrator enters many different communities and societies, each of which impose an idea upon him about the way in which blacks should behave. Some argue for perpetuating the stereotypical uneducated negro, some suggest that the blacks should be violent and reclaim there lost African heritage and others suggest for science and rationality in dictating the future of blacks in America. In each instance the narrator finds himself detached and separate; he plays an inauthentic role in trying to adhere to ideas about himself that he does not feel are right. So as he walks through the world lost and confused, dazed and downtrodden, he tries to find himself and fails miserably. The language Ellison tells the story through is remarkable and perceptive; he has a ridiculously keen ear for dialogue and speech patterns that allow the narrator to express himself in way that demonstrates his disillusionment with the world. He is not a happy man, and this is not a happy book. It bespeaks the blindness of society, ideology and those that profess to act in our best interests. “Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.” As I write these words, I’m about to begin my second read of this spectacular novel. There’s just so much in here that one read is simply not enough.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” Reading "Invisible Man" during a visit to New York was a deeply touching experience. What an incredible bonus to be able to follow in the footsteps of the young man struggling with racial and political identity questions. The physical presence of New York life enhanced the reading, and the city added flavour and sound to the story. Hearing the noise, walking in the lights of the advertisements, seeing the faces from all corners of the world made the main “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” Reading "Invisible Man" during a visit to New York was a deeply touching experience. What an incredible bonus to be able to follow in the footsteps of the young man struggling with racial and political identity questions. The physical presence of New York life enhanced the reading, and the city added flavour and sound to the story. Hearing the noise, walking in the lights of the advertisements, seeing the faces from all corners of the world made the main character's confusion and freedom of identity choice evident. And being a stranger in New York myself, I turned into an invisible woman, taking in the atmosphere without being noticed. Following the successes and misfortunes of the narrator, this novel shapes the identity of the reader as well. You can't escape the big questions built into the story. What is reality? What is scientifically true? How do we approach our given environment? Are words more powerful than actions or vice versa? Is there a logical chain of causes and effects between verbal instigation and violent action? Is there objective justice? How do we define it? The answers are not straight forward, but the narrator encourages the reader to try to embrace and understand the various changing shapes human beings take on over the course of their lives. It is better to live your own absurd life fully than to die for the absurdity of others' ideas: “I was pulled this way and that for longer than I can remember. And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone's way but my own. I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I called myself. So after years of trying to adopt the opinions of others I finally rebelled. I am an invisible man.” Must-read! Favourite quote: “Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.” Postscript: Rereading this review in March 2017, after following the rapid change in America since last summer, I am filled with sadness that we can never take for granted that we have left a certain kind of populism and racist propaganda behind, and that human rights can still be treated with farcical disrespect. I won't return to New York for the time being. The novel, however, is more recommended than ever.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Most capital-G Great books can be a grim trudge, like doing homework. Invisible Man is one of the few Great books that's also relentlessly, unapologetically entertaining, full of brawls, explosions, double-crosses, and the exuberant mad. As a meditation on race, it's as fresh as if it had been first published yesterday. One of the most essential American novels ever written and only the best of the best can stand alongside it: Grapes of Wrath, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird, True Grit.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Invisible Man is unique. I went in without really having any expectations other than knowing that it was a classic novel addressing the trials and tribulations faced by the black community in the mid-1900s. While it is that, the experience of the tragic hero of the novel is very bizarre, trippy, and somewhat unexpected. It is told in a way to make sure it reflects on a variety of possible experiences a black man might face during the time period. But, because Ellison is covering so many in one b Invisible Man is unique. I went in without really having any expectations other than knowing that it was a classic novel addressing the trials and tribulations faced by the black community in the mid-1900s. While it is that, the experience of the tragic hero of the novel is very bizarre, trippy, and somewhat unexpected. It is told in a way to make sure it reflects on a variety of possible experiences a black man might face during the time period. But, because Ellison is covering so many in one book and they are delivered in such quick succession, your head might be spinning before it is done. I was surprised at how accessible the writing is. Sometimes I am nervous going into a classic worried that I will be spending more time getting comfortable with the writing style than actually absorbing the story. With Invisible Man, the writing and narrative are very easy to follow, and it only requires a little extra concentration because of the sudden narrative jumps. A lot of the frustrations encountered by our protagonist sound very familiar to what is encountered in America today. Maybe some of it a bit different because times have changed, but it is still concerning that a story written 70 years ago can feel so current. I will equate my feelings on this to a discussion I had with my wife about the show Mad Men. For those who have not seen it, the main storylines are always affected by what is happening in America in the late 50s and 60s. We noted how amazing it is how all the plots around the handling of racial inequality do not sound much different than today. Many may look at the news and say “Wow, 2020 is crazy! I cannot believe what the response to racial inequality has become!” But, if you take the time to look back, it has been this way for a long time – you may just not have been listening or watching close enough! A very good book worth checking out – both because it is a good and interesting story, but also because of the message it has to share.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    The writing is hypnotic in Invisible Man and the dread all-pervasive. Every time I sat down to read a bit more, I was sucked into the prose, even though it made me deeply uneasy and worried about what was going to happen next. It is stark, it is poetic, it is difficult, and it is rewarding. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at The writing is hypnotic in Invisible Man and the dread all-pervasive. Every time I sat down to read a bit more, I was sucked into the prose, even though it made me deeply uneasy and worried about what was going to happen next. It is stark, it is poetic, it is difficult, and it is rewarding. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    "If social protest is antithetical to art," Ellison stated in an interview with The Paris Review, "what then shall we make of Goya, Dickens, and Twain?" I found the interview stimulating, especially since Ellison's narrator's voice seemed to reach across the pages of this book and coalesce with the myriad of current events. "Perhaps, though, this thing cuts both ways," Ellison continued in the interview, "the Negro novelist draws his blackness too tightly around him when he sits down to write—th "If social protest is antithetical to art," Ellison stated in an interview with The Paris Review, "what then shall we make of Goya, Dickens, and Twain?" I found the interview stimulating, especially since Ellison's narrator's voice seemed to reach across the pages of this book and coalesce with the myriad of current events. "Perhaps, though, this thing cuts both ways," Ellison continued in the interview, "the Negro novelist draws his blackness too tightly around him when he sits down to write—that’s what the antiprotest critics believe—but perhaps the white reader draws his whiteness around himself when he sits down to read. He doesn’t want to identify himself with Negro characters in terms of our immediate racial and social situation, though on the deeper human level identification can become compelling when the situation is revealed artistically." And here is when things get controversial, when some will stop reading, because to speak of race relations in America is to risk offending. Yet how can you not, when you've just watched someone you love go out for an early morning jog only to head back seconds later, with mounting nervousness, just to grab an ID? Artistic revelation, yes, this is how I would describe this novel. "Though invisible, I am in the great American tradition of tinkers. That makes me kin to Ford, Edison and Franklin. Call me, since I have a theory and a concept, a "thinker-tinker." Only a few protagonists can bind you, hands and feet, to their inner thoughts like this narrator can; only a few chosen writers can combine dramatic dialogue with self-exploratory meanderings and controlled prose that vividly reveals the life of one black man in America. Consider the metaphorical language Fitzgerald dazzles us with in The Great Gatsby; think about the clairvoyance of George Orwell in 1984,how he produced scripted scenes that came to life years later; remember the racial debate in William Styron's Sophie's Choice,recall the language and riveting voice of Toni Morrison's main character in Home,and you will have considered this novel. How can we not discuss race relations when a young boy just bled to death on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, his body left on the cold cement as a spectacle for hours, when even serial killers are fed elegant meals before they're executed in semi-private rooms? How can you not talk about the invisible man who was choked to death on the streets for selling loose cigarettes, even as he screamed, I can't breathe; or how about the invisible young man who was shot to death for strolling in his own neighborhood, wearing a hoodie? I could continue with the list that has been growing since the past year. "Right now in this country, with its many national groups, all the old heroes are being called back to life--Jefferson, Jackson, Pulaski, Garibaldi, Booker T. Washington, Sun Yat-sen, Danny O'Connell, Abraham Lincoln and countless others are being asked to step once again upon the stage of history…Destruction lies ahead unless things are changed. And things must be changed." I get chills when I think that those words were written years ago, and yet they are relevant today. You don't talk about these things around peers-- it's a no-no, like speaking of religion or politics. Instead, when you must censor the confusing and nauseating moments you have once you consider how such tensions affect your life, you turn to books. I reached for this book off my shelf and Ellison's words placed within me a sense of understanding and calm like no other writer could at this moment (this makes me take a moment of silence for non-readers). This book is devastatingly beautiful in its cold-hearted truth and individual perceptions. This narrator grows and develops from a young, black, college boy who has not been around his white counterparts, to a learned young man who slowly understands his invisibility and most importantly, understands how everyone--black and white--contributes to his invisibility. It is simply a story of self-discovery as seen from the perspective of a black character. Both tragic and enlightening, it is rife with imagery, unique cadence, "dialect," and rhythmic expose (and a few choice words that could be off-putting for some). I'm glad I chose it and it chose me. Here beneath the deep indigo sky, here, alive with looping swifts and darting moths, here in the hereness of the night not yet lighted by the moon that looms blood-red behind the chapel like a fallen sun, its radiance shedding not upon the here-dusk of twittering bats, nor on the there-night of cricket and whippoorwill, but focused short-rayed upon our place of convergence; and we drifting forward with rigid motions, limbs stiff and voices now silent, as though on exhibit even in the dark, and the moon a white man's bloodshot eye.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    This is such an amazingfantasticincredible book. If I were making a list of the 10 Best Novels About America, this would be at the top.* I first read Invisible Man in a college literature course, and my 19-year-old self liked it, but rereading it now was a really powerful experience. I definitely appreciated it more and admired Ellison's vision. This novel is the story of a black man in America. We never learn our narrator's name and we don't know what he looks like, but he feels invisible becaus This is such an amazingfantasticincredible book. If I were making a list of the 10 Best Novels About America, this would be at the top.* I first read Invisible Man in a college literature course, and my 19-year-old self liked it, but rereading it now was a really powerful experience. I definitely appreciated it more and admired Ellison's vision. This novel is the story of a black man in America. We never learn our narrator's name and we don't know what he looks like, but he feels invisible because of his color. When we meet our narrator, he is living alone in an underground room in a building near Harlem. He tells stories from his life, and we see all the times he was treated unfairly, misunderstood, wronged, stereotyped, and ill-used. A good example is a famous early scene known as the "Battle Royal." Our narrator, who was a high school student at the time, was tricked into a boxing match, fighting other young black men, all of whom are blindfolded. The scene is horrifying and gut-wrenching for the way the white bystanders dehumanize the young men, laughing when they are brutally injured, and then rob them of their promised pay. In the stories, we see how our narrator tried to play by the rules and work hard, but he is constantly thwarted or manages to make a misstep, because so many of the rules are unwritten. Another memorable scene is when our narrator, who is a good public speaker, catches the notice of a group called the Brotherhood and is asked to help better the conditions for residents of Harlem. Like so many of his other experiences, our narrator is misused and misled, and he has to think fast to survive. By the end of the book (which is also the beginning), we see how much faith he has lost in his situation ever improving. Our young narrator had such high hopes and grand ambitions! Now he's abandoned in a forgotten room, with electric light his only companion. Truly, it's impossible to summarize the breadth of stories in this novel. There is so much meaning and symbolism in everything that happens to our narrator -- at one point, the poor man gets trapped in an underground coal bin and nearly starves to death -- that I can understand why this book is so widely assigned in literature courses. Lots to discuss! I listened to this on audio, narrated by the actor Joe Morton, and it was an incredible performance. I highly recommend this novel, and if you like audiobooks, I encourage you to check out Morton's version. A very high five stars for Ralph Ellison. *Note: As soon as I typed the words "10 Best Novels About America," my mind started racing to decide what else I'd put on the list. Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, for sure. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby would make the cut. Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, obviously. Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter would be good for the Puritan element. Wharton's The Age of Innocence and Connell's Mrs. Bridge are personal favorites. Mark Twain should probably get some billing. Hmm... I need to get Native American representation, plus something about the immigrant experience. If you have suggestions to round out the list, please share. Opening Paragraph "I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen 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." Favorite Quotes "What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?" "I was never more hated than when I tried to be honest." "And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone's way but my own." "I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself." "For, like almost everyone else in our country, I started out with my share of optimism. I believed in hard work and progress and action, but now, after first being 'for' society and then 'against' it, I assign myself no rank or any limit, and such an attitude is very much against the trend of the times. But my world has become one of infinite possibilities. What a phrase - still it's a good phrase and a good view of life, and a man shouldn't accept any other; that much I've learned underground. Until some gang succeeds in putting the world in a strait jacket, its definition is possibility."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brina

    I have been seeing this on friends feeds lately. I read this for a college seminar African American History of the 1930s and 1940s. It was quite an interesting class as the demographics were literally half African American and half Caucasian, thus spurring provocative discussions. Our professor had us read Ellison's masterpiece and even though I do not remember it in its entirety, I remember the protagonist meeting Booker T Washington, George Washington Carver, discussing the talented tenth and I have been seeing this on friends feeds lately. I read this for a college seminar African American History of the 1930s and 1940s. It was quite an interesting class as the demographics were literally half African American and half Caucasian, thus spurring provocative discussions. Our professor had us read Ellison's masterpiece and even though I do not remember it in its entirety, I remember the protagonist meeting Booker T Washington, George Washington Carver, discussing the talented tenth and black universities, the back to Africa movement, etc. All in all, Invisible Man stands out as one of the top three books I read in college and I will have to reread it when I have the time.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    I put off reading this book for years, intimidated by its length and its venomous reputation. When I finally dove in, I definitely found lots of venom but lots of anti-venom too. Lurking behind all the nihilism in the title and particularly the struggles during his college years is a hidden (invisible?) optimism and dark humor I felt. In the US soon post-Obama, we have definitely moved forward superficially in the battle for equality and yet, Ferguson happened, Trump is happening and racism is s I put off reading this book for years, intimidated by its length and its venomous reputation. When I finally dove in, I definitely found lots of venom but lots of anti-venom too. Lurking behind all the nihilism in the title and particularly the struggles during his college years is a hidden (invisible?) optimism and dark humor I felt. In the US soon post-Obama, we have definitely moved forward superficially in the battle for equality and yet, Ferguson happened, Trump is happening and racism is still ever-present - rather than bodies hanging from trees from the Invisible Man's past, we are still in the car burning and rioting of the Invisible Man's "present" and have not moved on. This book made me once again interrogate my own feelings on racism and challenge my "idées reçus". It remains a text that is vibrant and relevant. I would recommend following this with Roth's The Human Stain which is another incredibly written novel about how Coleman Silk(zwieg) tries to be come invisible. If only the US would truly look into the deeper causes of racism, perhaps it would prevent another disaster like that of this present election cycle and I would not want to be invisible myself.

  12. 5 out of 5

    brian

    after an almost intolerably harrowing and intense first chapter, this book is a major letdown. of obvious historical importance, but an inferior and turgid work of literature in which every character but the protagonist is reduced to an over-simplified archetype meant to represent a particular demographic of american society. what i found most interesting, however, is that despite having lived another forty-two years, ellison never published another novel. from wikipedia: In 1967, Ellison experie after an almost intolerably harrowing and intense first chapter, this book is a major letdown. of obvious historical importance, but an inferior and turgid work of literature in which every character but the protagonist is reduced to an over-simplified archetype meant to represent a particular demographic of american society. what i found most interesting, however, is that despite having lived another forty-two years, ellison never published another novel. from wikipedia: In 1967, Ellison experienced a major house fire at his home in Plainfield, Massachusetts, in which he claimed 300 pages of his second novel manuscript were lost. This assertion is disproved in the 2007 biography of Ellison by Arnold Rampersand… …Ellison ultimately wrote over 2000 pages of this second novel, most of them by 1959. He never finished. incredible, huh? one is reminded of malcolm lowry who wrote the (unfuckingbelievably great) masterpiece Under the Volcano in 1947 and never published again. at the time of lowry’s death many half-completed manuscipts were discovered which were meant to be part of a multi-volume cycle of novels of which he was too mad and drunk to properly control. interesting to wonder what it is that separates those people who struggle to produce a single work from those who seem to vomit the stuff out – what separates a lowry from an updike? a vermeer from a picasso? a fassbinder from a kubrick? and then there are those artists who clearly had a single vision and despite laying it all out... they continue. when i'm global dictator i’m planning on putting a stop to this. paul auster is at the top of the list. he's sent to siberia and everything after new york trilogy is ‘disappeared’. anyone have any more suggestions? (mention post-smiths morrissey and you're immediately unfriended)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Adina

    “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.” Part a madman's ramble stream of consciousness, part a touching story of a confused young black man struggling with racial identity, Invisible Man is “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.” Part a madman's ramble stream of consciousness, part a touching story of a confused young black man struggling with racial identity, Invisible Man is an important American classic. What made this novel special for me was the narration of Joe Morton. I rarely listen to audiobooks but I was lucky to get this one as an Audible offer. I am so glad I decided to listen to this book instead of reading it because the whole experience was enhanced by the wonderful narration. Highly recommended although I prefer Black Boy as a classic on race in US. “What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?”

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Well......I can't say I enjoyed this novel, but I don't think I was supposed to. It's more of a send a message to the reader type classic.First published in 1953, an unnamed narrator and INVISIBLE MAN tells his life stories of fear, or maybe uncertainty is a better word of his place in the world. As a young and very naive black student, he proceeds through his tumultuous life while constantly haunted by his grandfather's dying words.The beginning chapters share how (OMG!) he was treated in a Har Well......I can't say I enjoyed this novel, but I don't think I was supposed to. It's more of a send a message to the reader type classic.First published in 1953, an unnamed narrator and INVISIBLE MAN tells his life stories of fear, or maybe uncertainty is a better word of his place in the world. As a young and very naive black student, he proceeds through his tumultuous life while constantly haunted by his grandfather's dying words.The beginning chapters share how (OMG!) he was treated in a Harlem basement just prior to being awarded a "scholarship to a state college for Negroes" for his important and memorable high school speech, but memorable for me was how he ever redelivered the speech in the horrific condition he was in at the time.Our protagonist is a young man who tries to do everything according to the rules, but disaster always seems to follow him around causing chaos and big trouble. Believe me when I say this dude cannot get a break. He can't even dispose of trash without being hassled; he just goes on and on from one catastrophe to another, and all he wants is an education....a job...to be relevant...and to be visible.Filled with treachery, dirty tricks and acts of betrayal, INVISIBLE MAN is a memorable and insightful must read especially as we look at our society today.1953 National Book Award winner.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    This is strongly reminiscent of German Expressionist drama from the early 20th century. It suffers from an inability to actually characterize anyone beyond the protagonist. Every other character is crushed by the need to represent a whole class or demographic. All of the other figures are episodes in his life, his personal development, his realization of society's deep-seated decay and his inexorable (and predictable) movement towards disillusionment. Which is to say that it is a heavy-handed, y This is strongly reminiscent of German Expressionist drama from the early 20th century. It suffers from an inability to actually characterize anyone beyond the protagonist. Every other character is crushed by the need to represent a whole class or demographic. All of the other figures are episodes in his life, his personal development, his realization of society's deep-seated decay and his inexorable (and predictable) movement towards disillusionment. Which is to say that it is a heavy-handed, young, stereotype filled book. Yes, it is a worthy historical object. Yes, it is an interesting foil to other pieces of American literature (which does not have too many books of this variety); but I don't think it deserves great praise if it is judged on its own merits. The prose is nothing special, the dialect isn't handled with particular grace, it has an irritating tendency to state the obvious and to self-interpret and the author actually takes the time to call attention to the fact that he is choosing to rant at you for the last five pages--a total admission of weakness. I am, however, giving it two stars in the "it was okay" sort of fashion. I'm not upset that I read it. I just won't read it again, teach it or reccommend it to anyone.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    An American classic. Not just a great African-American novel but a great American novel on the level of Moby-Dick or, The Whale, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Catcher in the Rye. Written in the early 1950s and with a narrative power as great as any of our finest writers, Ralph Ellison proclaims himself to be one of our best. Crafting metaphor, simile, stream of consciousness, poetry, surrealism, absurdism, and a variety of narrative devices, Ellison’s masterwork must be read. Using a narrat An American classic. Not just a great African-American novel but a great American novel on the level of Moby-Dick or, The Whale, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Catcher in the Rye. Written in the early 1950s and with a narrative power as great as any of our finest writers, Ralph Ellison proclaims himself to be one of our best. Crafting metaphor, simile, stream of consciousness, poetry, surrealism, absurdism, and a variety of narrative devices, Ellison’s masterwork must be read. Using a narrator who is never named but from whose perspective Ellison explores themes of nationalism, race, identity, gender, equality, political reform and the rule of law. The style will remind some of Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground while the political and social commentary are reminiscent of Steinbeck and early Jack London. We follow our narrator from a rural Southern origin, through an unsuccessful term in college to the multi-cultural and politically active streets of Harlem. There this natural leader and orator finds that he is nonetheless “invisible”: minimized and marginalized in the outer world even while being effective amongst “The Brotherhood”, Ellison’s amalgam of socialist / communist / progressive street wise organizations. As smooth, original and innovative as jazz, Ellison’s great contribution to twentieth century literature should be on a list of books that should be read at least once in a lifetime.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “I remember that I'm invisible and walk softly so as not awake the sleeping ones. Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers.” ― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man I can't believe I waited so long to read this. But part of me thinks I needed to wait to read this. Maybe, and this is hard to admit, maybe I wasn't ready for Ralph Ellison's masterpiece in my twenties or thirties. It was a fever dream. A jazz narrative. A hallucination of pain, be “I remember that I'm invisible and walk softly so as not awake the sleeping ones. Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers.” ― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man I can't believe I waited so long to read this. But part of me thinks I needed to wait to read this. Maybe, and this is hard to admit, maybe I wasn't ready for Ralph Ellison's masterpiece in my twenties or thirties. It was a fever dream. A jazz narrative. A hallucination of pain, beauty, struggle, and life. It was a Hegelian dialectic. It was a black whale just as real as Melville's Moby Dick. It still has me firmly in its grip. There are scenes in this book that are burnt into my mind and tattooed on my soul.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison Invisible Man is a novel by Ralph Ellison, published by Random House in 1952. The narrator, an unnamed black man, begins by describing his living conditions: an underground room wired with hundreds of electric lights, operated by power stolen from the city's electric grid. He reflects on the various ways in which he has experienced social invisibility during his life and begins to tell his story, returning to his teenage years. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز چهاردهم ماه ژانوی Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison Invisible Man is a novel by Ralph Ellison, published by Random House in 1952. The narrator, an unnamed black man, begins by describing his living conditions: an underground room wired with hundreds of electric lights, operated by power stolen from the city's electric grid. He reflects on the various ways in which he has experienced social invisibility during his life and begins to tell his story, returning to his teenage years. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز چهاردهم ماه ژانویه سال 2016 میلادی عنوان: مرد نامرئی؛ نویسنده: رالف الیسون (الیسن)؛ تهران: جنگل‏‫، 1393 ‬‏‫= 2014 م‬یلادی، در 581 ص؛ متن انگلیسی، افست از روی چاپ سال 1997 م، نیویورک؛ داستان درباره ی زندگی یک سياهپوست آمریکایی ست که به دلیل زندگی در جامعه ای مملو از دشمنی و تعصب، حس هويت خود را از دست میدهد و انگار دیگر وجود خارجی ندارد. الیسون هم برای همین این نام را برای کتابش برگزیده، چون باور دارد این مرد در حقیقت دیگر وجود ندارد؛ «مرد نامرئی» در ادبیات کلاسیک جهان، دو نویسنده‌ را به یاد خوانشگرمی‌آورد. از میان این دو نویسنده، شاید «اچ. جی. ولز» نویسنده ی انگلیسی مشهورتر باشد. ایشان کتاب خویش «مرد نامرئی» را، در قالب یک رمان علمی-تخیلی در سال 1897 میلادی منتشر کردند. کتاب «مرد نامرئی» اثر «اچ.جی. ولز»، بعدها در قالب فیلم هم تولید و عرضه شد. اما این کتاب «مرد نامرئی»، نوشته‌ ی «رالف الیسون» است. «الیسون» نویسنده و منتقد سیاهپوست آمریکایی ست، که از سالهای نخستین سده ی بیستم میلادی (سال تولد 1914 میلادی) تا سالهای پایانی آن سده (سال درگذشت 1994 میلادی) زندگی کرده است. تاکید بر سیاهپوست بودن «رالف الیسون»، عمدی است. چون کتاب «مرد نامرئی» ایشان، با تکیه بر تجربیات یک سیاهپوست نگاشته شده است. «مرد نامرئی» نوشته ی «الیسون»، یک تفاوت مهم با «مرد نامرئی» نوشته ی «اچ.جی. ولز» دارد. در رمان «اچ. جی. ولز»، مردی را می‌بینیم، که به اراده‌ ی خود، و با تکیه بر یک ماده‌ ی شیمیایی، نامرئی می‌شود. اما «الیسون»، به خوانشگرش مردی را نشان می‌دهند که بخاطر بی‌توجهی دیگران است که دیده نمی‌شود. بسیاری رمان «الیسون» را، از رمان‌های تاثیرگذارسده ی بیستم میلادی، در دفاع از سیاهپوستان می‌دانند. این کتاب سهم بسزایی در هموار کردن مسیر رشد سیاسی و اجتماعی سیاهپوستان آمریکا، طی دهه‌ های اخیر داشته است. برای همین ماجراست که مشهورترین جمله‌ ی کتاب این است: «من نامرئی هستم. علتش هم بسیار ساده است. هیچ‌کس نمی‌خواهد مرا ببیند.»؛؛ نقل از متن کتاب: «من از اینکه پدربزرگ و مادربزرگم برده بوده‌اند شرمنده نیستم. اما از اینکه یکبار بخاطر برده بودن آنها احساس شرمندگی کردم شرمنده‌ ام.»؛ پایان نقل. ا. شربیانی

  19. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    A hard book to review because its subject is so powerful and it's story so important that to criticise it would seem wrong. So I'll simply say I thought this a very powerful book. Occasionally confusing. Occasionally laborious. Yet overall brimming with energy and truth as well as some vivid characters and some uncomfortable visceral moments.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tom Mathews

    I’m embarrassed to admit that for many years I thought this book was the basis for the Claude Rains movie in which his wardrobe consisted largely of sunglasses and Ace wrap. Once disabused of that notion, I still was slow to read it because the title suggested a character that, while not literally invisible, was of so little importance that his very existence wasn’t noted by others. Obviously, this is a treatise on racism and, as I already know that racism is bad, what’s the point of reading it? I’m embarrassed to admit that for many years I thought this book was the basis for the Claude Rains movie in which his wardrobe consisted largely of sunglasses and Ace wrap. Once disabused of that notion, I still was slow to read it because the title suggested a character that, while not literally invisible, was of so little importance that his very existence wasn’t noted by others. Obviously, this is a treatise on racism and, as I already know that racism is bad, what’s the point of reading it? Fortunately, I read it anyway and found it to be a stunningly brilliant book, the National Book Award winning story of an unnamed young black man’s rise and fall as a community organizer in Harlem during the 1930s and 40s. It does have a lot to say about racism but does so without finger pointing or animosity, displaying it in all its forms, from the ultra-degrading smoker scene in chapter two to the ill-conceived gaffs by well-meaning acquaintances and Brother Jack’s imperious “The brother does not sing!” In places it felt as if no page was without some subtle, or unsubtle, slight being rendered to the point where I thought of the old torture called death by a thousand cuts. While no assessment of the black experience in America would be complete without a discussion of racism, Invisible Man is so much more than that. I could talk for hours about the many, many fascinating ideas that Ellison imparts, but I will settle for describing one chapter out of the many great ones Ellison created. In this chapter, our narrator has managed to find a job at a paint factory. Approaching the building he sees a sign that says “KEEP AMERICA PURE WITH LIBERTY PAINTS”. Nothing more is said about the sign but I immediately flashed on a conversation in which a woman once told my aunt that “It’s so rare these days to find someone who is pure” (pronounced PEW-uhh). From there it was an easy leap to picture a Klan rally with a fiery orator expressing the need to “keep America pew-uhh”. Once on the job, our narrator is tasked with mixing Optic White paint, a paint so white you can paint a chunka coal and you’d have to crack it open with a sledge hammer to prove it wasn’t white clear through”. The joke, though is that in order to make this ‘purest white that can be found’ paint, you have to add to it 10 drops, no more and no less, of dead black dope. Again, Ellison makes no comment as to the absurdity of this but he didn’t need to for the day hasn’t passed since I read that chapter that I haven’t pondered and theorized what he meant by it. Bottom line: Ralph Ellison is one of those brilliant authors who doesn’t tell his readers what to think but he tells you a story and lets you run with it. I suspect I will be running for a long time to come.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    You should read this. You really should. It was eye opening, challenging, insightful, unsettling.... It made me think and research and discuss. It made me wish I had a teacher and classroom full of students to help me through it. It was refreshingly honest and bold and eloquent. I struggled with this rating because my experience of reading this book was difficult and laborious. I think some context about the work would have helped me to engage. I wasn't sure what I was delving into when I started You should read this. You really should. It was eye opening, challenging, insightful, unsettling.... It made me think and research and discuss. It made me wish I had a teacher and classroom full of students to help me through it. It was refreshingly honest and bold and eloquent. I struggled with this rating because my experience of reading this book was difficult and laborious. I think some context about the work would have helped me to engage. I wasn't sure what I was delving into when I started - only knowing that it was a book on the top 100 greatest American novels of all times. I spent the first half of the novel orienting myself to what the author was trying to do. It was jarring and confusing reading the book without the anchor of historical importance, literary context, etc... By the last quarter, I was fascinated and moved... but up until that point I found myself lost and often dreading opening the book. With books of this type, books of cultural importance, books with deep symbolism and message, I find it helpful to have a preparation in reading it. My experience of the book was skewed because I went in expecting a good story but found instead a story that was heavily symbolic and in every turn. It took me a while to get my focus off the plausibility or likability of the story and characters and onto the message the book was trying to convey. I wonder if my experience would have been better had I known what I was reading. The plot was a framework on which to hang the ideas. The plot was secondary. I made a great error by skipping the introduction. I often avoid reading the back of books or reviews or even the introduction before hand because they give away the story. However, here is a book where I did myself a great disservice by skipping all that. If I were going to be very responsible - I would start again on page one and reread this book from the platform on which I now stand.... but... its 600 pages and I've got a to-read list a mile long. I want to say that I will attempt this book again in the future knowing what I know now... but I can't promise. In the meantime, I plan to read introductions more often. This book not only taught me and challenged me on issues of race relations, questions of identity, problems with ideology, etc... but it challenged my understanding of what it means to be a good reader. I read this book wrong and therefore I nearly wasted it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    B. P. Rinehart

    [update 4/27/2019]: I've spent years figuring out how to review this and maybe I'll never be satisfied, but here is an excerpt from elsewhere on this site: Though I had been reading a fair amount of books given to me up to the winter of 2004-2005, It would be an assignment to do a report on Ralph Ellison that would make me open my eyes to the world (and my place in it) in-general, and make me a serious book-reader in-particular. I do not consider myself a "bibliophile" at that time, but I was no [update 4/27/2019]: I've spent years figuring out how to review this and maybe I'll never be satisfied, but here is an excerpt from elsewhere on this site: Though I had been reading a fair amount of books given to me up to the winter of 2004-2005, It would be an assignment to do a report on Ralph Ellison that would make me open my eyes to the world (and my place in it) in-general, and make me a serious book-reader in-particular. I do not consider myself a "bibliophile" at that time, but I was now on my way. I have always felt it difficult to describe the impact that Invisible Man had on me, but it woke me from my dogmatic slumber. I had, as most did, gone through a world in which I knew things were more precarious arbitrarily cruel for me because my ethnicity, but I did not truly question—or should I say had the question put to me why this was in such an intense way. In truth, I was not aware enough to question why or what it meant to go through life as a black man— always having a set of rules to go by that were different from…the “mainstream” Americans that I heard of on T.V. Life in my neighborhood was a precarious one in which danger and the threat of death was the ever-present miasma. Into this I sat down and opened a borrowed, beat-up copy of Invisible Man and read that incredible first paragraph of the prologue: “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.” By the time I had read the whole prologue, I was Godsmacked. I had felt like lightning had been written into my soul and was trying to understand what I had read. I was coming into my 14th year on this Earth and had never read any lines like that in my life. Maybe in the Bible there were epic passages close to that, but to find something that summed-up what my—and many peoples around me—life looked like and I had only read the first twelve pages of the novel. After a few months just reading that prologue and finally feeling confident enough to go on, I proceeded to read the rest of the novel and decided that I must read everything by this man and understand how to understand the world as he did. [update 9/27/2013: OH BOY, seems like this book has made the news...and yes human stupidity is involved. I have never made it a secret on this site that I am a HUGE fan of this book. When I found out that this book had been banned by Randolph County [school board], North Carolina for not having any "merit", on the weekend before banned books week, the irony could not be more incredible. The book details the personal, cultural, and existential alienation and forced invisibility of the main character and others like him. It won the National Book Award in 1953 beating out Earnest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and John Steinbeck's East of Eden. It has been ranked in almost every list of greatest novels of the 20th century and is one of, if not the greatest, novel of post-war America. The fact that this book could be banned in the 21st century means that it is still important and the themes it brings up more alive than when it was written. The thing about banning a book is that you usually increase interest in it that way and it was no exception here as demand for the book doubled days after it was banned. What surprised me was how forceful and decisive public outcry was that only 10 days after it was banned(5-2 vote), the ban itself was overturned(6-1 vote). So it seems our nameless narrator can, for the time being, come out of his "hole" in Randolph County, NC.] [Original Review] ...I don't know where to began with this one. I guess everyone who likes to read has that one book. This book is that to me. Before I read this book I didn't know that I had a opinion or view on anything really especially not race or politics. I picked this book up in the 8th grade as apart of an assignment I had to do on the author and my aunt just happened to have a beat up copy of this book. Let's just say that it opened my eyes to the world around me and I still can't fathom the impact that this book has had on me. I have read many books since some could be considered "better" but I still hold this book (closest) in my heart and well I know this isn't a proper review (I may yet do one of those later) this is a book I would not have to think twice on recommending to anyone.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    The chief irony, as has been noted through article headlines, is that in drawing a most stunning portrait of an invisible man, Ralph Ellison became arguably the most visible black writer of all time (Toni Morrison, assuredly would also receive votes). The irony being a result of Ellison using key events of his life as a foundation for the major plot points of his novel (attending an all black college, a move north, communist association), and then after telling this story of invisibility suddenl The chief irony, as has been noted through article headlines, is that in drawing a most stunning portrait of an invisible man, Ralph Ellison became arguably the most visible black writer of all time (Toni Morrison, assuredly would also receive votes). The irony being a result of Ellison using key events of his life as a foundation for the major plot points of his novel (attending an all black college, a move north, communist association), and then after telling this story of invisibility suddenly garnering praise and winning awards. Yet this irony is most keenly viewed through our 21st century eyes; we must remember that Invisible Man was released in 1952, a full dozen years before The Civil Rights Act. And thus, for Ellison, his visibility was mostly seen as the rise of a great Negro writer despite his best efforts to shed that appellation. And, to put it bluntly, the critics of his day were wrong. IM is not just a great work of African American fiction, it is a great and timeless work of art. Ellison is able to paint the struggle of Invisible as rationality (education, logic, reason) versus irrationality (patronization, racism, Jim Crow). The hues of paranoia that shade Invisible foreshadow Pynchon, and DeLillo, writers whom, to be sure, do not work with Negro themes. Invisible is universal because he represents any rational man who attempts to navigate an irrational society. The specific plot points obviously deal with black themes of racism and black identity, but in no different way than Philip Roth deals with anti-semitism, and Jewish identity. Ellison also incorporates nuanced symbolism borrowed from Europe's Modernist movement: the black puppet that Tod Clifton sells, the briefcase that accompanies Invisible on his journey, the paint company representing white supremacy (whose paint is used on goverment buildings). These are more out of Joyce, or Eliot, than Langston Hughes. And yet, within this Western-styled novel that contains a universal narrator and protagonist, the most advanced ideas of black identity are explored. Invisible is a white man's destiny, as that man decides to treat black colleges as a way toward building a legacy, not toward black equality. Or the Brotherhood (a loose parallel of the communist party, with whom Ellison had a falling out) using racial inequality and blacks frustration with the status quo to help agitate and propagandize: not in order to truly help blacks gain equality, but in order to boost membership and further their cause of spreading communism. At every turn Invisible is used, never asked for his opinion or ideas, but told what is best for him. Even the black authority uses Invisible - the brutal Dr. Bledsoe who sells out Invisible by subtly manipulating him, encouraging him to run, nigger, run. And this drives him underground, this irrationality that allowed a nation founded on freedom to contain four million slaves, that allowed tenants such as seperate but equal, that allowed a master novelist and artist to be called a Negro writer. And yet within IM there is hope of reconciliation: where the Prologue (which reads more as a Foreword) is filled with violence, drug use and theft, the Epilogue (reading as an Afterword) contains philisophical gestures of understanding, and reluctant acceptance. Just as Ellison attempted to reach across racial lines (sometimes to the detriment and consternation of other black writers and intellectuals) and use his individual intelligence and creativity to push white racial prejudice further into the realm of irrationality. But Ellison also bemoaned his own race's unwillingness to seriously take on Western art and ideas and not just fall back on minority provincialism (to use his words). Because to Ellison, blacks are not just minorities they are part of the American concsiousness and he should know, he gave them their voice.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    This book was brilliant. I'm tempted to stop right there, because what else can be said? If I hadn't known that the novel was published in 1952, I would have sworn it was a contemporary tale. Does that mean Ralph Ellison was ahead of his time, or that time has stood still and nothing has changed in 64 years? So many of the quotes and positions of The Brotherhood could be taken right out of the mouths of our current crop of politicians on both sides of the U.S. presidential race today that it chi This book was brilliant. I'm tempted to stop right there, because what else can be said? If I hadn't known that the novel was published in 1952, I would have sworn it was a contemporary tale. Does that mean Ralph Ellison was ahead of his time, or that time has stood still and nothing has changed in 64 years? So many of the quotes and positions of The Brotherhood could be taken right out of the mouths of our current crop of politicians on both sides of the U.S. presidential race today that it chilled me to the bone. Some favorite quotes: "My God, boy! You're black and living in the South - did you forget how to lie?" "Play the game, but don't believe in it...that much you owe yourself. Even if it lands you in a straitjacket or padded cell. Play the game, but play it your own way. " "Be your own father, young man. And remember, the world is possibility if only you'll discover it." "They got all this machinery, but that ain't everything; we are the machines inside the machine." "What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do? What a waste, what a senseless waste!" "For the first time, lying there in the dark, I could glimpse the possibility of being more than a member of a race." "And I knew it was better to live out one's own absurdity than to die for that of others" "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....." I choose to use Mr. Ellison ' s words instead of my own, but I will repeat my first statement: This book is brilliant.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    "Now that I no longer felt ashamed of the things I had always loved, I probably could no longer digest very many of them. What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do? What a waste, what a senseless waste!" I could have sworn that I had read this in college many years ago in an exploratory course where we read Black Like Me and many others. But it didn't take long to realize my mistake when I began reading Ellison's classic. T "Now that I no longer felt ashamed of the things I had always loved, I probably could no longer digest very many of them. What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do? What a waste, what a senseless waste!" I could have sworn that I had read this in college many years ago in an exploratory course where we read Black Like Me and many others. But it didn't take long to realize my mistake when I began reading Ellison's classic. To me, this is a story of naiveté, muddling through life, never quite understanding how the world really works and trying unsuccessfully to play catch-up and get in step...and as he said, doing what was expected of him. And then realizing, no matter WHAT you do, it will never be enough because of the color of your skin...or, in the case of women, your gender. Highly recommend!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    Winner of the 1953 National Book Award. One of the defining novels of the 20th century. You don't find racism and bigotry just in the South, you find it everywhere, and in many different forms and layers. Ellison does a masterful job of showing this through his unique style and prose. It's impact and influence on the reader will forever change the way you view your place in society and how your actions influence the lives of those around you. Revised Feb. 2016.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    You Will Hit a Stride in Reading this Classic in Time to Ellison's Forceful Drumbeat This classic novel stirs the soul--in the boom-boom, rat-a-tat-tat of drummers in a huge, swaggering marching band. While he meticulously plotted INVISIBLE MAN, Ralph Ellison successfully styled this classic in many ways as a virtuoso would a jazz improvisation, conjuring fertile imagery in lush and metrical prose. The book centers on an unnamed narrator, the Invisible Man, as he is expelled from an African-Americ You Will Hit a Stride in Reading this Classic in Time to Ellison's Forceful Drumbeat This classic novel stirs the soul--in the boom-boom, rat-a-tat-tat of drummers in a huge, swaggering marching band. While he meticulously plotted INVISIBLE MAN, Ralph Ellison successfully styled this classic in many ways as a virtuoso would a jazz improvisation, conjuring fertile imagery in lush and metrical prose. The book centers on an unnamed narrator, the Invisible Man, as he is expelled from an African-American university in the American South, goes to New York City and is recruited by the lily-white Communist "brotherhood" who uses him like a whore. It may seem to some reading this superb novel that it's primarily a story about African Americans and beefs with the American Marxists. I agree, but found it to be much more: a clarion call to the educated disillusioned and disenfranchised, young and old ("Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?"), to follow their own drum and walk away from the flock ("there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers"). The book's essence is captured, I think, by a couple of passages: "What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do? *** I was pulled this way and that for longer than I can remember. And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone's way but my own. I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I called myself. So after years of trying to adopt the opinions of others I finally rebelled. I am an invisible man." INVISIBLE MAN, 1953 National Book Award winner, is a provocative and tense classic, just as relevant in 2017 as 64 years ago.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda

    I read this as an elitist college freshman and understood it all as an allegory. The opening pages were more than a little shocking and graphic, but I accepted them in a way that was outside of actual life. I knew that it was written a long time before I read it and it was to be perused and appreciated rather than absorbed. I think scholars tend to do that kind of thing because it keeps us at arm's length to feeling. I cannot apologize for what I believed because it was the only way I could have I read this as an elitist college freshman and understood it all as an allegory. The opening pages were more than a little shocking and graphic, but I accepted them in a way that was outside of actual life. I knew that it was written a long time before I read it and it was to be perused and appreciated rather than absorbed. I think scholars tend to do that kind of thing because it keeps us at arm's length to feeling. I cannot apologize for what I believed because it was the only way I could have possibly assimilated the entire novel: if any of this were remotely true, I should have probably been shamed beyond my ability to exist. Of course I have changed my mind now, seeing this as a work of consummate genius, a life poured out in a very consequential way. In that sense, this book is almost unique as well as powerful. Maybe one day I might be able to absorb this as the kind of tragedy it depicts, but I suspect that many more of us have become invisible since then: the genres and positions which are chosen for us by the elitist media, to which I once aspired to be a part,have nothing to do with the underlying humanity which spends its time looking for the truth. Instead we are given fluff and nonsense, an occasional bone here andthere, but nothing which might move us to action. The blood of patriots is all very fine, but most of us today would rather it be someone else's blood and someone else's life which should be sacrificed. I wonder how much longer we shall be able to afford this illusion.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sajjad thaier

    INVISIBLE MAN !!! هذه ليست رواية خيال علمي "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 a INVISIBLE MAN !!! هذه ليست رواية خيال علمي "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." بالتأكيد تعرفون تلك النوعية من الكتب التي تريدون من الجميع قرأتها وتقومون بحشرها في وجه أصدقائكم إلى أن يستسلموا إلى قدرهم المحتوم ويقومون بقرأتها. حسناً هذا أحد هذه الكتب. "You see," he said turning to Mr. Norton, "he has eyes and ears and a good distended African nose, but he fails to understand the simple facts of life. Understand. Understand? It's worse than that. He registers with his senses but short-circuits his brain. Nothing has meaning. He takes it in but he doesn't digest it. Already he is—well, bless my soul! Behold! a walking zombie! Already he's learned to repress not only his emotions but his humanity. He's invisible, a walking personification of the Negative, the most perfect achievement of your dreams, sir! The mechanical man!" يقال أن كتاب الشرق يكتبون عن المجتمع والسياسة بينما كتاب الغرب يكتبون عن الفرد والفردانية وأزمة البحث عن الذات وأدراك معنى الحياة. وهذا الاختلاف يعود لأسباب سياسية فالمجموعة الأولى عبارة عن بلدان مضطربة اجتماعياً وسياسياً وهذا الاضطرابات هي ما تشغل بال أغلب الكُتاب, أما في الدول المتقدمة فبسبب الرخاء السياسي والمعيشة المعتدلة يتسنى للفرد التفرغ لذاته للإجابة عن أسئلة من قبيل: من أنا؟ ما هدفي في الحياة؟ وهذه المواضيع هي ما تحفز الكُتابة في الغرب- بالتأكيد هذه الفكرة لا تنطبق على الكل.- حسناً رالف أيلسون من الكتاب القلائل الذين يجمعون بين الفرد والمجتمع في رواية واحدة "Son, after I'm gone I want you to keep up the good fight. I never told you, but our life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born days, a spy in the enemy's country ever since I give up my gun back in the Reconstruction. Live with your head in the lion's mouth. I want you to overcome 'em with yeses, undermine 'em with grins, agree 'em to death and destruction, let 'em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open." أن الكاتب أستطاع في هذه الرواية تناول مشاكل المجتمع ككل ,وفي نفس الوقت الفرد ونزاعاته الذاتية بصورة رائعة وربما فريدة في تاريخ الأدب. فنحن نسير في أزمة البحث عن الذات لفرد أسود-أسمه غير مذكور في الرواية- وطريقه باكتشاف حقائق الحياة. الحقائق المرة التي نرفض تصديقها بل حتى النظر أليها في حياتنا الطبيعية. لكن أزمته الشخصية في الواقع ليست ألا-بسبب طبيعته الخفية- انعكاس لمشاكل المجتمع الأسود والأبيض على حد سواء فالبطل هو مجرد انعكاس لتوقعات هذا المجتمع ورغباته. وبذلك نحن نسير بخطين متوازيين الأول يتعامل مع المجتمع والثاني مع الفرد. "He winked. His eyes twinkled. "All right, forget what I've said. But for God's sake, learn to look beneath the surface," he said. "Come out of the fog, young man. And remember you don't have to be a complete fool in order to succeed. Play the game, but don't believe in it—that much you owe yourself. Even if it lands you in a strait jacket or a padded cell. Play the game, but play it your own way—part of the time at least. Play the game, but raise the ante, my boy. Learn how it operates, learn how you operate" فنحن هنا أمام شخص يبحث عن ذاته وأثناء قيامه بذلك يقوم بإعادة تشكيل المجتمع وقولبته بطريقة تناسب تحوله من دودة صغيرة إلى فراشة منفتحة على حقيقة الحياة. وفي نفس الوقت يقوم المجتمع بإعادة تشكيله وخلقه. لذلك هذه الرواية هي قصة صراع بين الإنسان الضائع والمجتمع المفكك فمن سينتصر بينهم. "What if history was not a reasonable citizen, but a madman full of paranoid guile and these boys his agents, his big surprise! His own revenge?" تتكلم الرواية عن طالب في جامعة للسود والذي يحاول أن يكون معلم ولكن بسبب سيل من الأحداث الغير المتوقعة يتم عقابه بالفصل لمدة سنة تقريبا لكن عميد الجامعة يخبره أن يذهب إلى نيويورك ويعطيه رسائل توصية ليجد عمل في هذه الفترة بعيداً عن الكلية. ويجد في الرسالة مكتوب: "To Whom It May Concern," I intoned. "Keep This Nigger-Boy Running." الرواية عبارة عن سلسلة من الصدمات. حرفياً كما نشاهد في الأفلام عندما يحاول الأطباء علاج شخص توقف قلبه. فالمجتمع يستمر بصعق هذا الشاب الساذج بقوة وليس لشيء فقط لأنه يرفض رؤية المجتمع كما هو. فكما قلت هذه رواية تتناول بشكل رئيسي مشكلة البحث عن الذات ولكن ليس بالطرق التقليدية لتلك الروايات التي يذهب شخص في رحلة أو يقرأ كتاب ما ويبدأ بالتشكيك بواقعه حتى يصل إلى الحقيقة المطلقة. لا بل بالعكس فهنا البطل يتمنى لو يستطيع العيش في وهم وكذبة كما الجميع لكن كلما حاول ذلك يغلق الواقع الباب بوجهه مما يدفعه للسير بغير رغبة نحو الباب الآخر والذي يغلق أيضاً ويستمر على هذا الحال حتى لا يبقى شيء يلتجئ أليه غير الحقيقة المرة التي تحتضنه وتخنقه بنفس الوقت. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE FREE OF ILLUSION . . . And now I answered, "Painful and empty," لذلك هي ليست مغامرة البحث عن (الذات) هي مغامرة بحث عن (ذات) أي ذات. لكن لحسن أو سوء الحظ جميع الذوات قد آخذت في العالم لذلك أضطر صاحبنا على مضض أن يكون ذاته ويواجه هذا العالم القبيح.ووجد أن ذاته شفافة وخفية بحيث لا توجد في نفس الفئة مع باقي الفئات البشرية النتنة فهي لا تحوي كينونة في ذاتها لكنها ليست آلا أنعكاساً لآراء وأفكار الآخرين ولا تحوي أي جزء أصيل فيها وعند أدراكه لذلك يقرر البطل أن يستخدم هذه القدرة لتدمير المجتمع . "Then in my mind's eye I see the bronze statue of the college Founder, the cold Father symbol, his hands outstretched in the breathtaking gesture of lifting a veil that flutters in hard, metallic folds above the face of a kneeling slave; and I am standing puzzled, unable to decide whether the veil is really being lifted, or lowered more firmly in place; whether I am witnessing a revelation or a more efficient blinding. " "Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers." " the dumbest black bastard in the cotton patch knows that the only way to please a white man is to tell him a lie! " "Because to help you I must disillusion you . . ." "Say what the people want to hear, but say it in such a way that they'll do what we wish." " Blood calls for blood! You remember that. " "I ran through the night, ran within myself. Ran." " I not only entered the music but descended, like Dante, into its depths."

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    At times a harsh, surreal, hilarious sequence of humiliations of a unnamed black boy from the South who is forced to seek refuge in Harlem; he connects with a leftist brotherhood, makes a career in this movement, but soon again falls from his pedestal and learns to see the hypocrisy of people and organizations. He decides now to stay 'invisible' and live an underground life. This book reminded me of Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground', with its almost unbearable openness, and Celine's 'Voyage au At times a harsh, surreal, hilarious sequence of humiliations of a unnamed black boy from the South who is forced to seek refuge in Harlem; he connects with a leftist brotherhood, makes a career in this movement, but soon again falls from his pedestal and learns to see the hypocrisy of people and organizations. He decides now to stay 'invisible' and live an underground life. This book reminded me of Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground', with its almost unbearable openness, and Celine's 'Voyage au bout de la Nuit', with its unadulterated negativity. The style is dazzling and at the same time concise. Only at the end I was a bit disappointed: after the apocalyptic scenes of riots and plunder the story expires on a false note, because we again turn to the starting point. This is a harsh testimony of discrimination against blacks in American society in the years 1940-50, but by extension it refers to all the 'little'/'invisible' people, even in our present society (migrants, refugees ...) and in some way also an illustration of Sartre's "L'Enfer c'est les autres". But still it ends with a clear call for commitment and action. No doubt, one of the great novels of the 20th century.

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