This essay collection begins the vast project that is the global history of Ralph Ellison’s life and work. It examines how and why this avowedly «American» author read literature and scholarship from across the world and has in turn been widely read outside the borders of the USA. How did Ellison’s encounters with the «international» Henry James, the Cambridge Ritualists, the Roman poet Ovid and with Dostoevsky shape both the aesthetics and the politics of his own work? And what is the relationship between Invisible Man and the complex and always evolving political and cultural contexts of South Africa, the USSR and Russia, Germany and Japan since World War II? Contributors from seven different countries – based in Asia, Africa, Europe and the USA – deploy significant archival research both in Ellison’s personal library and in the translation and reception histories of his iconic first novel. This study of «the world in Ellison and Ellison in the world» initiates an important new approach in Ellison studies, illuminating hitherto hidden dimensions of the man and his writings.