Two of my favorites quotations from Invisible Man: “Beware of those who speak of the spiral of history; they are preparing a boomerang. Keep a steel helmet handy” and “The old is ever new.”
Today is Ralph Ellison’s Birthday and he would have been his 100th birthday. So, here is a taste (a short summary) of my essay, “’The Electric Impulse:’ The Legba Circuit in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man,” which I submitted to be in Afrofuturism 2.0, an anthology edited by Reynaldo Anderson and Charles Jones.
Inspired by Nikola Tesla’s quotation, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration,” I argued that Legba (also associated with Eshu, Exu, etc.) is the guiding force of Ellison’s novel, incarnating himself through several of the characters in the book and under-girding the main themes of the book.
When it comes to dissecting the novel, many will focus on the intersections of technology and race or even the musical aspects of it, since Ellison was a trained musician before becoming a writer, but rarely do they explore the spiritual, mythological and cosmic framework of the novel in relation to those other elements. Ellison had said himself that he uses myth and ritual as part of the process of his own writing in the Paris Review and he makes several references to those mythic ideas within his work. Thus, the novel intersects the two strands of spirituality and technology, much like the major guiding Legba-like character for the narrator, Rinehart, the spiritual technologist. Ellison uses the surface of technology to explore deeper questions of race, history, humanity, spirituality and understanding of the universe.