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Die Fahrstuhlinspektorin

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  5,045 Ratings  ·  585 Reviews
Lila Mae Watson arbeitet als Fahrstuhlinspektorin in einer amerikanischen Großstadt. Fahrstühle gelten hier als technologischer Ausdruck des Vertikalen, ihre Funktionsweise wird an Hochschulen gelehrt und die ihnen zugrunde liegende Philosophie heiß diskutiert. Als Lila Mae auf Pläne eines perfekten Aufzugs stößt, gerät sie allerdings in höchste Gefahr, da die Aufzeichnung ...more
Hardcover, 317 pages
Published February 1st 2000 by Hoffmann & Campe (first published January 1999)
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Sep 04, 2013 Carol. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Someone who wants a gumbo of mystery, lit, pulp, and African-American experience.
Recommended to Carol. by: me

I came to Colson Whitehead by way of zombies.

Colson Whitehead, writer of award-nominated books, including National Book Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Times Fiction Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and New York Times Notable Book of the Year; contributer to the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and Harper's; and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.

Yes, that Colson Whitehead. Zombies.

I'd like to pause for a moment and just admire the mind-twist for those that deride zombie books.

Maryellen Allen
Sep 06, 2007 Maryellen Allen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me off a list. I read some reviews before I dove in. Some said "it's about elevators" others said "it's all about race". Well...they're both kind of right, but I think they've missed the point.

This is an excellent book. It's an old fashioned murder mystery wrapped in a philosophical discussion wrapped in a metaphor. Colson Whitehead has created a wonderful "film noir" urban landscape completely centered around the world of elevator inspectors. This world of elevator
J.L.   Sutton
Dec 12, 2016 J.L. Sutton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist is a mystery about…elevator inspectors? Or is it about an ideological conflict between opposing schools of elevator theory (the Empiricists and the Intuitionists) which surfaces when an elevator deemed safe by elevator inspector, Lila Mae Watson (an Intuitionist) goes into freefall? Whitehead’s novel has the feel of a noir detective story replete with intrigue and espionage. His urban landscape is filled with characters you’d expect to see in such a novel and ...more
In an interview with following the publication of his 1999 debut novel The Intuitionist, Colson Whitehead discusses the freedom he has as an African American writer of the late 20th century. He says, "decades ago, there was the protest novel, and then there was 'tell the untold story, find our unerased history.' Then there's the militant novel of insurrection from the '60s. There were two rigid camps in the '60s: the Black Arts movement, denouncing James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison for b ...more
Jun 22, 2007 Shepherd rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This isn't just an allegory of race, as the many glowing reviews in the prefatory pages state. It's an allegory of everything. "Elevators" and "intuitionism" variously represent upward social mobility and its limits, the threatened gains of the civil rights movement, the anxiety of a post-rational worldview, challenges to good-old-boy cronyism, the enabling factor of the modern urban center and the possibility of its transcendence ... the list goes on. In the interest of thematic expansiveness, ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Mar 29, 2011 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: Dave Russell
I'll hold off rating this one until I think about it a bit... there is a lot to like about it; but a lot I just didn't understand. My elevator sometimes doesn't go all the way to the top.


Here's the thing: at another time and place, I would probably rate this a 4. However, in this current time and place, the complexity of the structure, an allegory that I never really "got" and the flat affect of the central character all kept me at arm's length when what I wanted, most, was to be im
Jun 19, 2007 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
All of the typical noir elements are here - the big, industrial city, menacing boss(es) playing dirty politics, muckraking reporter, servant with a trick up his sleeve, small-town girl in the big city. But nothing, not even a single description, is cliche. The main character is principled and smart, but she's so reserved that even the reader has to make some guesses at her emotional life. The plot is unpredictable - whimsical, jarring and scary, abstract for a while, mundane.

I'm not sure the pa
Jan 12, 2013 Jonfaith rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There was no one else to blame. The Intuitionist was my pick for a tandem read with my wife. We read it in a single day, one which left us bruised from all the cliches and the noir tropes which were further wrinkled with the riddle of race. I recall Mr. Whitehead was reported to have been spit upon by novelist Richard Ford. No, I wouldn't go that far. . .
Sep 02, 2016 Phyllis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, americana
Really interesting book. It is set in what seems a lot like New York City, though in what decade (or even century) is a little mysterious. Lila Mae Watson is the first black female elevator inspector (there is one older man who is the first black elevator inspector), working at a time when the Department of Elevator Inspectors is sharply divided between two approaches to the inspection of elevators: the Empirical approach, and the Intuitionist approach. When the unthinkable happens and an elevat ...more
Althea Ann
May 18, 2013 Althea Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I read Whitehead's 'Zone One' for post-apocalyptic book club, and liked it - someone at our meeting recommended 'The Intuitionist' to me - but all they would say is 'Well, it's about elevator repairmen. But I think you would like it.'

Admittedly, I didn't immediately think that reading about elevator repair sounded like the most thrilling activity. You may not be instantly hooked by that description. You might even think it sounds dull. Well, you would be w
Dec 14, 2011 A.C. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am reading this for a class that I am taking on black postmodern fiction. The hallmarks of the postmodern style are there. It is clear that Whitehead read a fair amount of Pynchon and Barth due to the extensive presence of half-thoughts, sentence fragments, and commentary from the narrator. So, with regards to the class, I understand why it was assigned. On a personal level, I haven't been this bored reading a book in a while. I don't particularly like any of the characters. Lila Mae is rather ...more
Erik Evenson
There are many things to like about Colson Whitehead’s first novel, The Institutionist: the prospect of reading about elevator inspectors (a subject, I’m pretty sure, no one has ever written about in fiction), the idealogical split between institutionist and empiricist inspectors (one group inspects elevators by observation and scrutiny, the other by ‘feel’. I’ll let you guess who does what), and elevators being a metaphor for almost everything important in life—“They go up, they go down. You ju ...more
Maybe more like a 4.5, but this book deserves to be rounded up, not down. Fabulous writing and wordplay, fabulous creation of a fascinating world that was almost real.

This novel takes place in a past that didn't exist--where the Elevator Inspectors are revered, in a great city that has achieved verticality (and seems to be c1930 New York, or even 1950). Lila Mae Watson is the first colored woman (author's terminology) to achieve her badge as an elevator inspector--and she is in Intuitionist, wit
Alan Chen
I'm a mystery buff, they're my guilty pleasure, but I like them to be complex and well written. This is both, but either the author is trying to cram too many ideas into the novel or isn't skillful enough to do it, because somewhere along the line the novel goes sideways. First, it's a mystery: Lisa Mae is an elevator inspector with a perfect record and when one of the elevators she inspected goes down she believes that she's been set up. Second, this is an alternative history novel where elevat ...more
Taryn Pierson
Jan 27, 2015 Taryn Pierson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Adam asked me what I was reading the other day, I responded, “It's called The Intuitionist. It's about race. And elevators.” He made a noise expressing both surprise and confusion, but pretty much left it alone. Like any good husband would, he reads my site. He knows he'll get better information out of me if he waits for the written version of my bookish thoughts.

So here it is: Lila Mae Watson is an elevator inspector in a New York-ish city full of high rises. The time period is as murky a
May 09, 2007 Ben rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: eh...
Shelves: 2007
The Intuitionist is an odd little novel. The copy on the back cover does its best to make the story and tone of the book sound extra weird, while at the same time remaining fairly vague. And I suppose that's a fair representation of what you find inside. The novel's themes and even its setting make for a good jumping off point, but Whitehead continually does things in half measures.

The setting, obviously NYC but pointlessly vague, reminded me quite a bit of Quinsigamond, from Jack O'Connell's si
Apr 05, 2012 zxvasdf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intuitionism and Empiricism reflects the quintessential struggles of two distinct schools of thought - the most notable that comes to mind is the classical and quantum interpretations of physics. One is old school, dependent on the physical perusal of the objects themselves, solid and true. The other is metaphysics distilled into a mystic philosophy of the true nature of elevators. Problem is... one or another, they both work.

Race relations are different today, but Whitehead writes that sometime
Mar 08, 2013 Randall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd have to spend some time and energy to truly explain what's so genius about this book, and that assumes I'm not missing a whole bunch of it's true brilliance.

The plot summary would likely have most shaking their head, thinking, "What the fish?" It sounds absurd. In some ways, it's really absurd.

Lots of room for interpretation here, but Whitehead is clearly tackling some major social topics and doing it with humor and a perceptive eye.

If your interest isn't piqued by the thought that elevat
Jul 17, 2009 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written with a true love of the City, in this case an abstract, noir version of New York, the book posits a world in which the elevator has its own science and philosophy. In fact there are competing schools of Empiricists and Intuitionists, complete with their own thugs employed in the power struggles. Lila Mae Watson, the first "colored" elevator inspector, is a member of the latter school, and an unusual and appealing character. This is Whitehead's first novel and, given his great talent, you ...more
Oct 20, 2015 Alex marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Kaion says, "For sci-fi noir meets race noir, see Colson Whitehead's spectacular The Intuitionist," and I'm all whaaaaat, sign me up.
May 23, 2012 Zach rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, race
In which Whitehead uses the noir-"murder"-mystery and elevators to interrogate race in America.

Lila Mae Watson is the first black woman elevator inspector in some alternate-world New York City (never named as such, but... you can tell) where elevator inspection is a Very Big Deal.* This takes place in the 1950s or so (there’s a reference to Martin Luther King, Jr.), and while other reviewers have made much of its supposed science-fictional retro-futurism, I didn’t get that from the text at all -
Maurice Carlos Ruffin
There's a rich strain of American literature dealing with this nation's original sin, slavery and its residue. In fact, there's so much literature on the topic that I've heard quite a few times that there's nothing left to say. Enter Colson Whitehead's the Intuitionist, a book that manages to make the entire problem seem both familiar and alien at once.

Whitehead's strategy is a brilliant one, the kind of idea that must have struck him at an odd moment, like in the dentist's chair or while listen
Aug 29, 2009 Cheryl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a while to get into this book and to finish it, which is strange since it is not that long, but it was worth it. I couldn't help but think about how I would feel about this book if Obama had not been elected; it is a powerful story about race set against this surreal world (1950's maybe) where there is an Art of Elevator Inspection and you are either an Empiricist who examines the minute physical and mechanical details of the elevator or you are an Intuitionist and inspect the elevato ...more
The book jacket (thanks to Walter Kirn) unhelpfully plumps this ambitious novel as "The freshest racial allegory since Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye." Hmm, I wonder, what other racial allegories can I think of since Ellison and Morrison? My answer being "None," I find myself underwhelmed by Kirn's analysis, which strikes me as being akin to "The most profound novel about a sperm whale since Moby Dick."

Hyperbolic review pushed to the side, this novel reveals its
Sep 13, 2009 jordan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How to describe Colson Whitehead's debut novel, The Intuitionist, a parable of race relations through the lens of competing factions of elevator inspectors in a fictional pre-civil rights American city? Check the thesaurus for synonyms for audacious - bold, works, as does brash. Now a writer of no small renowned, with a catalogue of excellent works and awards to his name, one can only wonder at the venturesome spirit that led to this deep complex novel which brings nothing so much to mind as the ...more
Nov 12, 2015 Kaion rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m always interested in skewed takes on genre fiction, and The Intuitionist, if nothing else offers food for thought in its noir thriller/speculative fiction hybrid. Actually it reminded me strongly of China Mieville's The City & the City— another novel set in a nameless metropolis, in which the speculative premise is an allegory which drives the boilerplate narrative. Like Mieville, Colson Whitehead is interested in liminality; except where Mieville needed to invent a near-omniscient agenc ...more
Clinton Mcclung
Feb 18, 2009 Clinton Mcclung rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whitehead's first novel is about an alternate NYC of the 60s where elevator repair technicians were revered social servants divided into two parties - Empiricists, who are old fashioned nuts and bolts repairmen, and Intuitionists, who "feel" the elevators with their minds. They are essentially the Right and Left of party politics, which also means that neither side is quite what it appears to be.

But really, The Intuitionist is a story of racial identity, revolving around the main character Lila
Jan 08, 2014 Corey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the review blurbs on the back cover calls this a "racial allegory," which I'm not sure makes sense because in all ways but one the author paints a very firm picture of an explicitly parallel world to our NYC of the 1950's (give or take a few years). The one way that it differs is that, in the world of The Intuitionist, elevators are hot shit, like, totally hot shit. The two major elevator companies are run by the mob and in turn promote warring factions of elevator repair ideology (The In ...more
Jul 28, 2012 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The Intuitionist is about Lila Mae Watson, the first black female elevator inspector. Though it is never named, the setting is obviously meant to be New York (or perhaps some alternate-world version of New York?), late in the 19th century. Lila Mae is an Intuitionist; she inspects elevators by riding them, and getting a sense of how well they are operating. The opposite (dominant) school is the Empiricists, who inspect
Brent Legault
I don't think that Whitehead trusts me, the reader, or you, the reader (if you've already read it), to figure things out on my, or your, own. He likes to have his characters tell us what they're going to do, then tell us what they're doing, and then when we are good and exhausted and ready to move on (to another book, for example), he likes to tell us what they, his characters, have done. Granted, some of the telling is told well, but the redundancy doesn't read as artistic, just sloppy.

And the
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I'm the author of the novels Zone One; Sag Harbor; The Intuitionist, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; John Henry Days, which won the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Apex Hides the Hurt, winner of the PEN Oakland Award. I've also written a book of essays about my home town, The Colossus of New York, and a non-fiction ac ...more
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