The Invisible Man By H.G. Wells

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Updated 21 December 2012

The Invisible Man By H.G. Wells

Before moving on to “universal” literature, I would like to introduce an author I greatly appreciate for his extraordinary imagination: H.G. Wells.
You might not know, or remember, his name, but you are surely acquainted with some of his books — later made into successful movies — such as “The Time Machine” and “War of the Worlds”. Here, I am going to write about another fascinating story and a mysterious character, “The Invisible Man”.
H.G. Wells’ books may not be considered “masterpieces” by some, but they are definitely “classic” because — according to French literary critic Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869) — “Classic is an author who has enriched the human mind... or revealed some eternal passion in the heart where all seemed known and discovered.” H.G. Wells shows you how not “all has been discovered.”
H.G. Wells (1866-1946) was an English writer who - thanks to a broken leg that compelled him to stay motionless for some time — when he was just a child — developed a great love for reading in general and for science in particular. Coming from an almost poor family, he succeeded in obtaining a scholarship to the Royal College of Science in London at 18. After graduation, he began teaching science but he soon decided to dedicate himself to writing only. His fame is due to what he called “useful knowledge” — acquired through study — closely joined to his limitless imagination. Together, the two created his “scientific fantasies” that offered his numerous readers the vision of future worlds and exciting possibilities.
“The Invisible Man” was published in 1897 and tells the story of a scientist, Griffin, who was greatly interested in the study of optics. He succeeded in finding a way to change the index of light refraction of a human body into the one of the air. By doing this, no physical mass (which needs light to be refracted, i.e. divided into what we see as colors) can be perceived by the eye. It becomes invisible. Unfortunately Griffin, once he successfully tries the procedure on himself, is unable to reverse it.
He finds refuge in a tiny village in the south of England, an environment the author describes particularly well because it was where he was born and had grown up. Griffin takes residence in the village inn, where he lives hidden in his room, heavily clothed and with a bandaged face any time he has to see someone. His only occupation is his chemical experiments, that he unceasingly carries out in the hope of finding a way to turn back into a “visible” human being. Realizing that he needs someone else’s help, he first finds a tramp, Thomas Marvel who, instead, betrays him. Griffin, in his desperation, threatens to kill him but gets shot. Finding shelter in a house, he meets an old colleague of his, Kemp, to whom he suggests that, by means of his invisibility, they can start a “Reign of Terror” in order to terrorize the nation and gain control. His desire for power has been unleashed! Betrayed by Kemp, too, Griffin is finally caught and killed. While dying, his body ironically regains its visible form.
The idea for this story was taken by a myth mentioned by Greek philosopher Plato (428 BC - 348 BC) in his “Republic”, “The Ring of Gyges”, where a simple shepherd, having found a magic ring in a cave that made one invisible, used such power to commit abominable crimes such as seducing the queen, killing the king and usurping the throne.
Plato, as he usually does in his “dialogues”, has the argument between Socrates and a pupil develop, in order to examine the two possible interpretations of a story or idea. Here the pupil, Glaucon, expounds his opinion about morality. He says that any man, even an excellent one, if put in a situation where he can commit a crime to his benefit with the certitude of not been punished, will perpetrate it. Therefore, he says, morality is not an innate condition, it is only a “social” one, created by the need to be respected by others. Socrates’ objection is that morality and justice do not derive from the rules of society and that a man who accepts to act against his inner “knowing” for his own benefit, enslaves himself to his low appetites. As a consequence, he is unhappy.
I find this argument worth pondering upon. When we take the time to “think”, we sometimes discover answers that are different from the ones we had previously given.

Elsa Franco Al Ghaslan

Sophia Al-Maria wins inaugural Dunya Contemporary Art Prize

Updated 26 April 2018

Sophia Al-Maria wins inaugural Dunya Contemporary Art Prize

  • The Dunya prize is presented to a mid-career artist from the Middle East or its diaspora
  • Al-Maria was selected as the recipient of the prize by “an international jury of experts in the field of contemporary Middle Eastern art”

DUBAI: Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) launched its biennial Dunya Contemporary Art Prize last Monday. The first winner is Qatari-American artist, writer and filmmaker Sophia Al-Maria.

The Dunya prize is presented to a mid-career artist from the Middle East or its diaspora. Its goal, according to a press release, is “to foster contemporary artists from the Middle East whose work is rigorous, challenging and unconventional.”

Al-Maria certainly fits that description. The artist coined the term “Gulf Futurism” to describe her take on the social shifts that have taken place due to dramatic economic growth in the GCC.

Al-Maria told the Chicago Tribune she was “gobsmacked” by the award (and the $100,000 she receives as its winner, along with an exhibition at the MCA and a catalog) and said it could enable her to complete projects that had faltered in the past due to a lack of funding. She also suggested that her focus may now shift from the Gulf to “some of the questions about America that I’ve been thinking about,” as she feels she is “no longer concerned” with Gulf Futurism as a concept.

“My whole life in a way is a project of, I guess, moving away from designated cultural identities and moving it onto some other plane where one can attempt to not be, perhaps, a Middle Eastern artist or an American artist or a Qatari artist and just be someone who is working,” she told the newspaper.

Al-Maria was selected as the recipient of the prize by “an international jury of experts in the field of contemporary Middle Eastern art,” the MCA said. The jury was led by Omar Kholeif, MCA Manilow senior curator and director of global initiatives.

“Al-Maria’s practice illustrates the diversity of ways that artists are working in the twenty-first century,” the jury wrote in a statement. “Her critical insights into contemporary culture, examining histories of science fiction, feminism, and the global socio-political condition, feel more urgent now than ever.”