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Uomo invisibile (1952)
di Ralph Ellison
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Romanzo di importanza storica eccezionale, narrazione forte e violenta, cadenzata da una struttura a episodi (coincidenti con i capitoli) che spezzetta e rende ancora più simboliche le singole vicende. E, per quel che conta, uno dei più bei libri che io abbia mai letto. ( )
There are some great scenes here, most notably the riot scene late in the book, and much that is shockingly contemporary in this seventy year-old novel. How about this line in light of the current moment in American history, spoken by an African American man in the process of burning down his own apartment block? "Goddamn you sonsabitches. You didn't think I'd do it but there it is. You wouldn't fix it up. Now you see how you like it." One gets here a taste of the inside story of being black in early twentieth-century America. Some of the stereotyping the protagonist faces as a black man cuts deep into America's id, above all the rape-fantasy scene. At every turn, the protagonist is held back by realities and legacies of racism from getting on by following his own lights. He is by turns a baited bear; a fighting cock; a credit to his race - in white eyes, so long as he sticks to the script; a disgrace to his college for exposing a white donor to people the black establishment is ashamed of; a medical guinea pig; a tool of a cynically biracial political operation; a sexual fantasy; and ultimately, because of all these, unable to provide productive leadership to avert a riot of looting and burning.
But this book is not only an exposé of the African American experience: the writer gamely challenges mindsets of people black and white alike. Check out the character of the conniving black college dean and enjoy the acid takedown of Booker T. Washington-style accommodationism. It questions avenues the author saw black people taking to get ahead: pander to white benefactors? "yes them to death" but remain a secret "spy" for self-respect? be an essential and admired cog in a white man's machine? be all things to all men, but a fake? This brave book teaches how stereotyping harms the real people who are its objects, but has much more to say beyond that. It broaches feelings of contempt in an African American seeking to rise through education but foiled by a white benefactor's encounter with embarrassingly "degraded" African Americans in the country just outside the purlieus of the black college. It dissects and critiques the failings of the diverse ways in which African Americans had tried to get on in America. Curiously, the nascent Civil Rights movement is absent though.
But, taking the book as a novel, I was bothered by the way the narrative did not quite gel in terms of causation and motivation. What was the effect on the protagonist of the shock-treatment electric lobotomy? Why did the Brothers think he would make a good member based on his street-speaking when his speech was a confused mess? I preferred the more realist chapters over the dreams and fantastical plot-points like the paint factory explosion. The theme of the ingenuous revolutionary exploited by cynical Marxist plotters (see also: Arthur Koestler, Graham Greene) has lost its relevance today (Fox News fans may disagree). Least satisfying was the philosophizing and psychology of "invisibility", which the title would suggest it was the author's prime concern to communicate. Opting out of society, indeed living in the sewers, because you cannot bear for other people to see in you what they have learned to see, rather than the individuality and complexity of who you really are, seems more like despair than an answer. What is to be done to live well in a broken society? Perhaps the author meant precisely that a practical answer to African America's predicament was not known. We make our own history, but not in circumstances of our choosing, if I may paraphrase one of history's "gods that failed".
The author nods towards absurdism and existentialism, suggesting something universally human in the black predicament of living a life trammeled by history, hatred, fear, and the manipulations of others, rather than as truly free. Like the pigs who seem as men in "Animal Farm", the protagonist sees all his manipulators, both black and white, "merge into one single white figure. They were very much the same, each attempting to force his picture of reality upon me and neither giving a hoot in hell for how things looked to me. I was simply a material, a natural resource to be used." The broken system had broken everybody, black and white, who tried to fix it. At the end, even the white benefactor, who invested in the protagonist his hopes for changing the world, is lost and decrepit. How many of us is the last line aimed at? "It is this which frightens me: Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?"
The story of a young black man who is expelled from his HBCU in the southern U.S. and goes to New York City as part of the Great Migration. In New York City, he falls in with "The Brotherhood" who try to change the way blacks are treated by working with white friends of the movement. They are opposed by a more revolutionary movement and they tussle frequently on the streets. Ellison's hero is constantly being played and taken advantage of by all around him, although he often doesn't realize it at the time. He struggles through college, New York, a job at a paint factory, and rises within the Movement thinking he is doing well and that he is a credit to his people only to realize that he is a tool in a larger, much more corrupt, operaton.
Really great novel. I feel like I need to read some commentaries on it to really complete the experience, and I will. The story is easy to follow along, but Ellison is sometime too eloquent and/or poetic for my non-poetic mind to really get at the deeper issues he's addressing. Still, this novel is full of topics for discussion.
I'm deeply saddened that once again this is a book I wasn't introduced to until adulthood. I missed out on so many wonderful works of literature simply because of my proximity to whiteness. And though I'm rectifying it now, I wonder what younger me would have gained from the thoughts and themes around race and identity in this work. Would she have been less ashamed of her blackness? Would she have embraced being biracial sooner? We'll never know.
1-5 di 198 (prossimo | mostra tutto)
"Invisible Man" is tough, brutal and sensational. It is uneven in quality. But it blazes with authentic talent.
Appartiene alle Collane Editoriali
È contenuto in
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Cultural Contexts for Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man: A Bedford Documentary Companion di Eric Sundquist
Ellison's "Invisible Man": A Collection of Critical Essays (20th Century Interpretations) di John Marsden Reilly
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Wikipedia in inglese (2)
Invisible Manis a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot'sThe Waste Land, Joyce, and Dostoevsky.
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Sistema Decimale Melvil (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
2 edizioni di questo libro sono state pubblicate da Penguin Australia.
Edizioni: 0141184426, 014119491X