Ralph Ellison

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Ideas lose themselves as quickly as quail, and one must wing them the minute they rise out of the grass, or they are gone.
Thomas F. Kennedy
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I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. ~ Invisible Man

Ralph Waldo Ellison (March 1, 1913April 16, 1994) was a scholar and writer. Ellison was best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953.

Sourced

  • The act of writing requires a constant plunging back into the shadow of the past where time hovers ghostlike.
  • Some people are your relatives but others are your ancestors, and you choose the ones you want to have as ancestors. You create yourself out of those values.
    • Time Magazine (27 March 1964)
  • Commercial rock ’n’ roll music is a brutalization of the stream of contemporary Negro church music … an obscene looting of a cultural expression.
    • Shadow and Act (1964)
  • I am a novelist, not an activist... But I think that no one who reads what I write or who listens to my lectures can doubt that I am enlisted in the freedom movement. As an individual, I am primarily responsible for the health of American literature and culture. When I write, I am trying to make sense out of chaos. To think that a writer must think about his Negroness is to fall into a trap.

See also

Unsourced

  • America is woven of many strands. I would recognise them and let it so remain. Our fate is to become one, and yet many. This is not prophecy, but description.
  • By and large, the critics and readers gave me an affirmed sense of my identity as a writer. You might know this within yourself, but to have it affirmed by others is of utmost importance. Writing is, after all, a form of communication.
  • Eclecticism is the word. Like a jazz musician who creates his own style out of the styles around him, I play by ear.
  • Education is all a matter of building bridges.
  • Good fiction is made of that which is real, and reality is difficult to come by.
  • Hibernation is a covert preparation for a more overt action.
  • I am not ashamed of my grandparents for having been slaves. I am only ashamed of myself for having at one time being ashamed.
  • If the word has the potency to revive and make us free, it has also the power to blind, imprison, and destroy.
  • Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.
  • Power doesn't have to show off. Power is confident, self-assuring, self-starting and self-stopping, self-warming and self-justifying. When you have it, you know it.
  • The act of writing requires a constant plunging back into the shadow of the past where time hovers ghostlike.
  • The blues is an art of ambiguity, an assertion of the irrepressibly human over all circumstances, whether created by others or by one's own human failing.
  • The end is in the beginning and lies far ahead.
  • The understanding of art depends finally upon one's willingness to extend one's humanity and one's knowledge of human life.
  • There are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers.
  • There must be possible a fiction which, leaving sociology and case histories to the scientists, can arrive at the truth about the human condition, here and now, with all the bright magic of the fairy tale.
  • When I discover who I am, I'll be free.
  • Play the game, but don't believe in it.
  • Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.
  • When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination-indeed, everything and anything except me.
  • If the word has the potency to revive and make us free, it has also the power to blind, imprison, and destroy.
  • It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves.
  • All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naïve. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization that everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself.
  • …[T]o whom can I be responsible, and why should I be, when you refuse to see me? And wait until I reveal how truly irresponsible I am. Responsibility rests upon recognition, and recognition is a form of agreement.

External links

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