- Paperback: 582 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (2 Aug. 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141184426
- ISBN-13: 978-0141184425
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.7 x 20 cm
- Average Customer Review: 59 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Invisible Man (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 2 Aug 2001
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One of the most important American novels of the twentieth century (Times)
A brilliant individual victory . . . proving that a truly heroic quality can exist among our contemporaries (Saul Bellow)
A stunning block-buster of a book that will floor and flabbergast some people, bedevil and intrigue others, and keep everybody reading right through to its explosive end (Langston Hughes)
Don't try to write the Great American Novel, it has already been done . . . any US epic must address race, which remains the greatest single issue the country faces. (Paul Gambaccini The Week)
Ellison's blistering and impassioned first novel, winner of the prestigious American National Book Award, tells the extraordinary story of a man who is invisible 'simply because people refuse to see me'. Yet his powerfully depicted adventures - from a terrifying Harlem race riot to his expulsion from a Southern college - go far beyond the story of one man. The lives of countless millions are evoked in this superb portrait of a generation of black Americans.See all Product description
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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 advertisement, 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 invisible, soaking 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 straightforward, 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.”
“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.
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I really love this story, gripping story and very well written.