Monday, June 23, 2014

Invisible Man

I've encountered a book, named "Invisible Man", which 
left me voiceless. When I first started it, I was in some kind of a rush to read it for a course I was following, and I thought of reading it as quickly as possible. But, as it began in a pretty weird way in the prologue, I realized that this would be the kind of book I'd be stuck with for an amount of time I wasn't prepared to spend. Of course, as it turned out, I loved it, and couldn't stop reading it, but to me, it isn't one of those easy-to-read books that you just get over with. Or I guess that if that's how anyone feels about it, he/she's either a genius, or he/she missed the point, and many of the story's or narrative's aspects that makes the novel a very special one. 

It is a novel by Ralph Ellison, published in 1952, which tells the story of an African American man, that we follow from his childhood until his 40-50s, whose path is entirely shaped by how people see him at different times of his life. As a boy, people see him a the very promising young African American on the one side, but the oh so easy to laugh at boy who can't say no to anything. He's completely obsessed by white people, and is working very hard to become like them, until his dreams get crushed as he goes to university. I won't go into the details of what happens to him, but from that point onward, you realize that his life will never truly be his own, as his personality or even his preferences, or choices, never seem to have any importance whatsoever to the people around him, but more importantly, not even to himself. Even when, at one point, he becomes a successful politician, he's forced to realize that whenever he truly tries to innovate, people turn their back on him, because that's not what they want from him. Be it black or white people, all the people he sees in his life use his African American origins to define him, and don't want or care to find out who he is inside. 

As you can probably tell, and as the title foreshadows, the underlying meaning of the story is all about forging an identity when the world around you won't let you have one, since it believes it has you already all figured out from a simple look. But the broader story, with all the peripetiae, is amazing too, as you advance in an account of the America of the 1920s to the 1950s, as an African American. A very peculiar, but also very interesting, fact about this novel, is that the protagonist/narrator's name is unknown, it is not even once mentioned in the novel, which obviously has to do with the fact that he has no personal identity in his life either. And finally, the narrative is so poignant that you feel all the insecurities, or hopes, or the powerlessness, or whatever feeling the protagonist is experiencing in a way that makes you want to read the novel all the more rapidly, since you always feel like something is going to go wrong. Turning the page seems to be the only solution to get away from this entrapment, and also seems to constantly give you hope for a better inner feeling. Yet, as the book ends, you realize that what happens in the epilogue, is what was already happening in the prologue, which gives an even greater impression of being trapped in this story, and having to relive it again and again and again. And, in a way, that's what has been happening during the whole book. So, basically, if you like the kind of books that  leave a profound mark on you, and that uses loads of suspense, this is definitely the book for you! I really hope you get the chance to read it, and enjoy it as much as I did!

Have a great day, and keep your mind sharp!


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