The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born
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The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  853 ratings  ·  76 reviews
A railway freight clerk in Ghana attempts to hold out against the pressures that impel him toward corruption in both his family and his country. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born is the novel that catapulted Ayi Kwei Armah into the limelight. The
novel is generally a satirical attack on the Ghanaian
society during Kwame Nkrumah’s regime and the period
immediately after inde...more
Paperback, 191 pages
Published October 23rd 1989 by Heinemann Educational Books (first published January 1st 1969)
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Community Reviews

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Lisa
This shit-encrusted tale of corruption and despair belongs to a tradition of post-colonial African literature that is unflinchingly critical of national politics. Hope was abating, disillusionment with Independence was beginning to take hold, and people were resigning themselves to the sad realities of poverty and inequality. In Ghana, the period in question is the 1960s.

Ayi Kwei Armah has a particular fondness for scatological images that meshes well with his chosen message. I have no doubt th...more
Zanna
This book changed my perception of Africa as much as Things Fall Apart did. I was startled to realise, through these books, that I had never imagined every day life for people in Ghana, had only thought of Africa through negative news reports and famine relief appeals, and had never considered the possibility that Africans might live in cities, go to work in smart clothes and drive cars. Such is the power of ethnocentric socialisation.

Armah's novel twisted my stomach in empathy with its protagon...more
Jonathan
A masterpiece. Truly an extraordinary work full of shit and sadness and sentences of great beauty. Proper review to come soon, but y'all need to get your greedy mitts on this ere book ASAP.
Lady Jaye
I don't even know if I should/can rate this book. Up until the last 50 or so pages, it took a lot of effort to slog through.

Ayi Kwei Armah set out to take a stand, make a political statement, and it is evident in every part of the book. A lot of similes, a lot of hyperbole, painful description, and LOTS of pontification. It is annoying, and it makes the book painful to read, but it also gets his point across very well.

He wrote this book in 1968, 11 years after Ghana's independence, when the jo...more
J. Trott
So this book is by an American trained Marxist and it about the new Ghana with Nkrumah as president. It traces the sad move from idealistic and hopeful begins of a new state, to a corrupt and selfish mess. It is a book that I as a Westerner identified with, but my African students found it harsh and unrealistic. It has a heavy existensialist bent, one character, nameless, the man, refuses to participate in the corruption, and he is hated by everyone. Yet he goes on, trying to avoid the dirt, des...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I did not know what to expect from this one. As it turns out, it’s quite a good literary book, although its tone is poorly represented by its cover; picture instead a dark road strewn with litter, under a cloudy sky, lined by buildings in various stages of collapse, and you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

This book is set in Ghana in the 1960s, and is about corruption. It follows the unnamed third-person narrator, a railroad clerk, who is one of the few who refuses to take bribes--which...more
Sean McLachlan
All the Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born, by Ayi Kwei Armah, is an excellent read and the second-best book I read all year, after Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo.

Armah wrote this novel in 1968, only eleven years after Ghana got its independence, and he is often considered to be from the "second generation" of African writers. The first generation wrote around the time of independence and was filled with optimism. Things went bad quickly, though, as Armah's book shows.

The story follows an unna...more
Harry Rutherford
The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born is a novel set during the last days of the Nkrumah government in Ghana. It’s about a man resisting corruption, quixotically in the view of most of those around him. The scathing portrayal of a corrupt society is all the sharper because of the contrast with the optimism that came with independence; it’s a novel, among other things, about the loss of hope. A kind of Animal Farm of post-colonialism.

It’s a slim book, less than 200 pages, but it took me quite a lon...more
Monica
This book requires patience to read. The start of the book gets on quite well, very good use of description. I got hooked from the beginning wondering who the mysterious man was and where was he heading to but immediately after my questions got answered the book quickly became boring, i feel like the writer got lost in description land, like i knew where he was going but he used too many detours to get there! Overall it's an okay read although it did take me forever to finish and bare in mind th...more
Lisa Faye
Wow, that was an amazing book that I plan to read again and again! Brilliantly written and, although short, not something to be consumed too quickly. Again, I have to say it, this man can really write!!
Obote O.clause
I Was forced to read it because it was my literature copy. the first 10 pages were the boring ever. the progress was slow but at the end i liked the story.
Thurston Hunger
The last honest man in Ghana? Images of rot persist, even as the characters are forced by rebellion's upsurge into even further filth. This novel, while certainly part manifesto, still carries a storyteller's flair, and perhaps it is totally my misread, has more than a bit of humor in it. Or maybe that is just my inner pragmatist laughing at the shadow of my once proud inner idealist.

I miss that guy...

Anyways, if this is "socialist fiction", its strength is in the latter aspect triumphing. I fou...more
A.C.
Jul 11, 2008 A.C. rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: anyone
I picked this book up on a fluke in Jamaica after I finished reading a John Feinstein book. I'm glad that I did because this book is incredible. It's about the breaking of one man's soul in post-Nkrumah Ghana. It's simple, it's sparse, it's striking. The decay of the character and the people surrounding him are similar to that of Nausea by Sartre. But, whatever I say, it's not going to do this book justice. Stop reading this right now. Go get this book and read it from cover to cover in one sitt...more
Autumn
i read this not long after i returned from a few months spent traveling in central america. although, i've never been to africa, there is a resonance here for anyone who has lived in a developing nation. it's the similarities you see in the housing structures in xian, china, and lucea, jamaica. or the smell of coal burning. or the exhaust from diesel-fueled buses. this book, albeit heavy and frustrating, is beautiful and somehow hopeful. i hope to travel to ghana one day...

a friend's father pass...more
Danielle
This book offers an accurate portrayal of Ghana in the 1960s (I think), post-Nkrumah optimism. I tried reading this book when I was in Ghana but it was too depressing, so I read it a few years later and found it utterly amazing. The language is great, the story riveting. Perhaps more so if you've spent time in Ghana.
Demetri Broxton-Santiago
Sep 22, 2007 Demetri Broxton-Santiago rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Anyone!
This book literally changed my life! I read it when I was in Africa-- Ghana more specifically. I was really able to gain a perspective on life in West Africa, my own identity, and the political environment and fervor which creates acts of revolution. Everyone will find something amazing in this book.
Kimberly
One of my favorite novels by a Ghanaian author, this book takes a look at corruption in West Africa, how this disease of corruption seems to engulf everyone around it, whether they like it or not. Cynical but insightful. As necessary to read as Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart."
Mercy
This was such a depressing read. It was impossible not to be affected by the gloom and decay reported so strongly by Armah. It was crazy how much of this I could relate to, and I loved that
Beth78
Jul 11, 2012 Beth78 added it
Interesting book on the dilemmas of the post-colonial period in Africa. Most of the dilemmas that Armah talks of puts the Afrcan man at the cross-roads!
Lisa
Written in 1969 one can still see a lot of similarities in modern Africa today. Not uplifting but interesting.
Atra Bou
Despite the fact that they had gained their political independence, the African states struggle in this period of post-independence. A drastic collapse of culture and ethics. Setting these African states free was all a trap by white men, that held power on them for many years then had purposely given them their independence only to show them that they are incapable of organizing themselves and make them assimilate the culture of the colonizer. If Africa had had a handful of people like Booker.T....more
Dani Golomb
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Val
This is quite a cynical story. Ghana seems to be grubby with dirt and dirty money, and a lot of polishing trying to cover it up. The imagery is effective; the language is rich and evocative; the society evoked is detailed and believable; the overall impression is of disillusionment.

A quote:
"It was all so good, the youth and the thoughts of honest living water flowing to thirsty land, wasn't it? But what happens when you come out and you see the land wants you, not honest and living, but complete...more
Malcolm
Set in Nkruma's Ghana, this is a tale of a man (only identified as "the man") who once was involved with and captured by the dreams of independence, of revolution, who has since become a small-time bureaucrat who struggles to keep is family fed. Corruption is all around, and the pressure to take advantage of it comes at him from all sides - his former school mate, now a minister who is making himself rich from schemes and connections; his mother-in-law; his wife and the expectations of his three...more
Stasia
I had a really, really hard time getting into this book. The sentences are long and at first seemingly unrelated to anything, the main character never has a name (he's always referred to as "the man"), for a whole chapter a first-person narrator mysteriously appeared, it took FOREVER to feel like there was a point. But after about 120 pages, I was glad I'd stuck with it. It's a good glimpse into Ghana, and an excellent look at how hard it it to be a principled person in a corrupt world--and why...more
Fathima Cader
picked it up in a kampala bookstore because the title and cover were compelling. it's a beautifully written novella, providing a very introspective examination of the co-opting of socialism for materialistic, oppressive ends in postcolonial Ghana. would serve as a solid literary counterpart to Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks. pretty bleak overall, though it would be possible, with some effort, to find moments of redemption in the story. reads a bit surreally, in part because the protagonist is n...more
James
a thoroughly revealing book about the rot in publicly managed corporations in post-colonial Africa(Ghana) and how family and social pressures gets an employee entangled in the cobweb of corruption. His sad fate of leaving his family behind as he runs from the law. a good read by all measure.
Akon
Apr 08, 2014 Akon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
Depressing expose of post-colonial Africa... illustrates how the liberation struggle(s) merely removed one set of masters (white) for another (black) – despite promises made by the liberators themselves denouncing all things white and colonialist and promising a return to African values.

It describes the new bourgeoisies/elites' neocolonialism –everything European is aped and desired by the elites or those who have ‘made it’, everything African is primitive, cheap and only for those who cannot a...more
Chahrazad
Hints at spoilers!


I found the plot quite predictable, in the sense that it is yet another of those protest novels against corruption. The same inner conflict that tears an honest man when he's weakened by the needs and desires of his "loved ones".

The women are negatively portrayed: they nag and complain of the lack of money. The wife hates her life and wants not only necessary things but also luxuries which her husband cannot afford. She doesn't care about honesty, morals and principles.

I was di...more
Thendo Ndou
I found the first third of the book really slow and difficult to get into. In fact - I gave up two or seven times. But, fortunately, I gave it one more try at a time it was picking up.
It is primarily a political book and then personal (as if the two can ever be seperated). It is set around the time of Nkrumah's Ghana and tells through the livings of one man that power brings corruption. It tells through his observations that as great as our liberators were in freeing us, power and its first daug...more
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Born to Fante-speaking parents, with his father's side Armah descending from a royal family in the Ga tribe in the port city of Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana, [1] Armah, having attended the renowned Achimota School, left Ghana in 1959 to attend Groton School in Groton, MA. After graduating, he entered Harvard University, receiving a degree in sociology. Armah then moved to Algeria and worked as a transl...more
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“Alone, i am nothing. i have nothing.we have power.but we will never know it,we will never see it work.unless we come together to make it work.” 18 likes
“Disgust with injustice may sharpen the desire for justice. Readers who don’t see this connection merely wish to be entertained, and I have neither skill nor desire to turn the agony of a people into entertainment.” 10 likes
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