Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, The United StatesMarch 01, 1913
Died April 16, 1994
GenreLiterature & Fiction, Politics, Nonfiction
InfluencesHemingway, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Louis Armstrong, Richard Wright, ...more
Ralph Ellison was a scholar and writer. He was born Ralph Waldo Ellison in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, named by his father after Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ellison was best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953. He also wrote Shadow and Act (1964), a collection of political, social, and critical essays, and Going to the Territory (1986). For The New York Times, the best of these essays, in addition to the novel, put him "among the gods of America's literary Parnassus." A posthumous book, Juneteenth, was published after being assembled from voluminous notes he left after his death.
Ellison died of Pancreatic Cancer on April 16, 1994. He was eighty-one years old
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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