Ralph Ellison

Easton Press Ralph Ellison books

Invisible Man - (not signed by Ralph Ellison) - 1999

Franklin Library Ralph Ellison books

Invisible Man - 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature (not signed) - 1980
Invisible Man - signed limited edition - 1980 (signed by Ralph Ellison)

(use caution when purchasing Franklin Library copies as both versions were produced in 1980 and both are red leather)


Who is Ralph Ellison?

Ralph Waldo Ellison, born on March 1, 1913, in Oklahoma City, was an influential American novelist and literary critic best known for his groundbreaking novel, Invisible Man. Ellison's life and work were shaped by the experiences of racial inequality and his profound understanding of the complexities of African American identity in the United States. Ellison grew up in a world deeply affected by racial segregation and the struggles of African Americans in the early 20th century. After attending the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he studied music and became interested in literature, Ellison moved to New York City in 1936. In New York, he became associated with the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural and artistic movement that celebrated African American art, music, and literature.

Ellison's literary career gained significant momentum with the publication of his first novel, Invisible Man, in 1952. The novel is a powerful exploration of the psychological and social struggles faced by a nameless African American protagonist who grapples with invisibility and marginalization in a racially divided America. Invisible Man received critical acclaim for its innovative narrative style, symbolism, and its profound examination of racial and societal issues. The novel won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1953, solidifying Ellison's place as a prominent literary figure. The success of "Invisible Man" also brought Ellison into the forefront of discussions on race and identity during the civil rights movement.

Battle Royal

Battle Royal is a short story written by Ralph Ellison, and it serves as the opening chapter of Invisible Man. In Battle Royal, the narrator reflects on a traumatic event from his youth. He and other African American boys are invited to participate in a boxing match, a "battle royal," as part of the evening's entertainment for a gathering of influential white citizens. However, the boys soon discover that the event is more degrading and humiliating than they initially thought. Before the boxing match, the boys are forced to engage in a literal battle royal, in which they are blindfolded and pushed into a ring to fight each other. While blindfolded, they are subjected to racial slurs and physical abuse from the white audience, emphasizing the dehumanizing nature of racism. The climax of the story comes when the narrator is finally allowed to participate in the boxing match. He discovers that the fight is rigged, and he is pitted against another young black man. The boys are goaded into fighting each other for the amusement of the white spectators. The narrator grapples with conflicting emotions as he wants to both please the white audience and resist the dehumanizing treatment.

Battle Royal serves as a powerful introduction to the themes that Ellison explores in Invisible Man, addressing issues of racial inequality, identity, and the dehumanizing effects of racism. The story highlights the psychological and physical violence inflicted upon African Americans during a time of segregation and discrimination. The experiences recounted in Battle Royal shape the narrator's understanding of the world, setting the stage for the broader narrative of invisibility and alienation that unfolds in the novel.

Despite the acclaim for his first novel, Ellison faced challenges in completing a second major work. He worked on an unfinished manuscript, Juneteenth, for many years, but it was only published posthumously in 1999. Ellison continued to contribute to literature through essays, short stories, and literary criticism, emphasizing the importance of individual identity and self-expression.

Ralph Ellison's impact extended beyond his fiction. He was a passionate advocate for civil rights and participated in various intellectual and cultural initiatives. Ellison's critical essays, including those collected in Shadow and Act (1964) and Going to the Territory (1986), addressed a wide range of topics, from literature and music to politics and cultural identity. Ralph Ellison passed away on April 16, 1994, leaving behind a literary legacy that continues to influence discussions on race, identity, and the American experience. "Invisible Man" remains a classic of American literature, appreciated for its artistic achievement and its profound exploration of the complexities of being "invisible" in a society marked by racial prejudice.


Invisible Man

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.

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 to give voice to the experience of an entire generation of black Americans.

In this deeply compelling novel and epic milestone of American literature, a nameless narrator tells his story from the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.

He 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," before retreating amid violence and confusion.

Originally published in 1952 as the first novel by a then unknown author, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land , James Joyce, and Dostoevsky

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