This essay considers how Richard Wright’s newly released novel, The Man Who Lived Underground (2021), offers a profound black existentialist rumination on suffering, alienation, pleasure, and aesthetic experience. Homing in on the novel’s use of figures of repetition and queries of the ontology of value, it reads how Wright makes way for modes of thought that, while scorned by normative aims and logics, produce new perspectives, habits, and, perhaps, avenues for individual fulfilment in an otherwise absurd world hostile to black life and personhood.

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