The Man Who Lived Underground: A Novel
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"Not just Wright's masterwork, but also a milestone in African American literature . . . The Man Who Lived Underground is one of those indispensable works that reminds all its readers that, whether we are in the flow of life or somehow separated from it, above- or belowground, we are all human." —Gene Seymour, CNN.com
"It's impossible to read Wright’s novel without thinking of this 21st-century moment. . . . Wright deserves sensitive reconsideration, especially now that so many of us have been proved naive in our belief that an honest rendering of Black people might lead to recognition of our existence in the universality of humanity." —Imani Perry, The Atlantic
"Moves continuously forward with its masterful blend of action and reflection, a kind of philosophy on the run. . . . Whether or not The Man Who Lived Underground is Wright’s single finest work, it must be counted among his most significant."
—Clifford Thompson, The Wall Street Journal
A major literary event: an explosive, previously unpublished novel about race and police violence by the legendary author of Native Son and Black Boy
Fred Daniels, a Black man, is picked up by the police after a brutal double murder and tortured until he confesses to a crime he did not commit. After signing a confession, he escapes from custody and flees into the city’s sewer system.
This is the devastating premise of this scorching novel, a masterpiece that Richard Wright was unable to publish in his lifetime. Written between his landmark books Native Son (1940) and Black Boy (1945), at the height of his creative powers, it would eventually see publication only in drastically condensed and truncated form in the posthumous collection Eight Men (1961).
Now, for the first time, by special arrangement with the author’s estate, the full text of this incendiary novel about race and violence in America, the work that meant more to Wright than any other (“I have never written anything in my life that stemmed more from sheer inspiration”), is published in the form that he intended, complete with his companion essay, “Memories of My Grandmother.” Malcolm Wright, the author’s grandson, contributes an afterword.