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I love this photo of Ralph Ellison.

My mom sent me this article from Newsweek, in which Malcolm Jones muses on Ralph Ellison’s posthumously published Three Days Before the Shooting… and the notion of the “great American novel.” (Summary: There is no such thing, exactly, because “The authors who have caught America on paper best did it incrementally, not all at once.”)

More than the article itself, I loved this photo of Ellison that accompanied it. There’s the writer at work on this platform, seemingly surrounded by wildness but somehow above it and not quite part of it.

“Where do you think that photo was taken?” I asked Francisco, who took the page from the magazine to the kitchen to hold it up to the light. “The [American] South,” he said definitively. “No way! Are you kidding me? That is definitely not the South,” I told him.

And so I did a quick search and discovered that this photo of Ellison was shot in Rome in 1957, when he was in residence at the American Academy on Rome’s Fellowship in Literature, which he was awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

I found this information in Google’s LIFE Magazine archive, which for the life of me, I don’t understand why I didn’t browse through before now.


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