The lives of countless millions are evoked in Ralph Ellison’s superb portrait of a generation of black Americans, Invisible Man. This Penguin Modern Classics edition includes an introduction by John F. Callahan, as well as an introduction by the author.
Ralph Ellison’s blistering and impassioned first novel tells the extraordinary story of a man invisible ‘simply because people refuse to see me’. Published in 1952 when American society was in the cusp of immense change, the powerfully depicted adventures of Ellison’s invisible man – from his expulsion from a Southern college to a terrifying Harlem race riot – go far beyond the story of one individual. As John Callahan says, ‘In an extraordinary imaginative leap, he hit upon a single word for the different yet shared condition of African Americans, Americans, and, for that matter, the human individual in the twentieth century and beyond.’
This edition includes Ralph Ellison’s introduction to the thirtieth anniversary edition of Invisible Man, a fascinating account of the novel’s seven-year gestation.
Ralph Waldo Ellison (1914-94), named for the poet Emerson, was born in Oklahoma. At the age of nineteen he won a scholarship to study music at Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. In 1936 he went to New York, where he met the writers Langston Hughes and Richard Wright; shortly afterwards his stories and articles began to appear in magazines and journals. After the Second World War Ellison was awarded a Rosenwald Fellowship, allowing him to concentrate on the composition of Invisible Man (1952), which won the National Book Award and established Ellison as a major figure in twentieth-century fiction.
If you enjoyed Invisible Man, you might like E.L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.