MY RATING : ★★★★
“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.”
― Ralph Ellison,
Not to be mistaken with H.G. Wells’s Invisible Man (see the gif), this classic by Ralph Ellison brings another definition to being invisible. Indeed, while H.G Wells’s novel talks about the real power of invisibility in a science fiction genre, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man refers to it as a racist and ethnic term. This phenomenal classic from 1952 retells the journey of a black man in a 1930s America and how racism rages on and divides him.
For this occasion, me and Lashaan were reading along this classic so I thought it would be interesting to share both point of views. We had the same rating (4 stars) and were completely amazed by the story.
We both agreed that its timeless prose illustrates how this novel has shaped or even reshaped American Literature. The strength resides in its poetic ferocity and sharpness. I’ve read a lot of books dealing with racism and they always have a documentary vibe kind of text to it. But Ralph Ellison does not want us to look at in a documentary and realistic truth but by living through an emotional introspection with a savage comedy and through other people’s expectations of what’s it like to be an Invisible Man in those years.
“Invisible Man is one of those novels that has so much content that the mind would never be able to grasp in a single reading. Even despite its length, upon completion, it felt like there was ten times more words that were hammered into my conscience.”- Lashaan.
“I was personally very satisfied by the angles Ralph Ellison took in displaying a man who was hunted by the final words of his grandfather and his progressive comprehension of it. I loved how the book explored various political attempts to fight racism and how to overcome it, while showing the darker schemes at play. I adored the whole collective identity versus individual identity dilemma that was brought to light, and even more the contrast put forth between black/white, dark/light and blindness/sight that ran throughout the book.” -Lashaan
Of course the book addresses racism, identity questions and the ideology of that period. But what I find even more interesting and very subtle in the book is the theme of love… or should I say the absence of it. The narrator (who’s nameless as if he’s..INVISIBLE! SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) rejects love on every level throughout the book for the fact that it endangers his own ambitions until the end where he realizes the nebulous truth: (Spoiler: highlight to see it): « that love is not a person, nor an object, it’s simply the enemy of hate, it’s an idea. ».
The only reason why it wasn’t a 5 stars novel for me is that pace, sometimes it was hard to continue for the fact some moments were just slow to me. The perfect illustrations are his dream sequences were somehow redundant. The novel didn’t reach to me profoundly nor it was #mindblowing experience. The force is in the writing and how he delivers his journey.
“The length of this story however felt unwarranted. There are sequences that could have been cut out in order to improve the rather slow pace that the novel had. With or without these moments (some of the dreams, as Trang pointed out), the story would have held the same punch and delivered its message with the same grace. It is still nice to note that the whole story had a very strong dream-like vibe, letting the reader wonder if the narrator is in a dream or in reality. Kafkaesque? Let’s call it Ellisonesque.
Invisible Man is thoroughly an amazing novel. I believe its essence can be even more admired once contextualized and investigated in its historical significance.” – Lashaan
Believe me, this book won’t disappoint you ! Have you read it ? 🙂 If you ever reviewed this book too, leave the link below so that we can check it out !