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The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  1,756 Ratings  ·  126 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 i ...more
Paperback, 191 pages
Published October 23rd 1989 by Heinemann Educational Books (first published January 1st 1969)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Lisa
Jul 29, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it
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
Cheryl
Sep 14, 2013 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Ask me about a writer who is unflinching in his emasculation of an African postcolonial way of life stunted by its mire in corruption and deceit, and I'll point to Ayi Armah.
Why do we waste so much time with sorrow and pity for ourselves?…not so long ago we were helpless messes of soft flesh and unformed bone squeezing through bursting motherholes, trailing dung and exhausted blood. We could not ask then why it is was necessary for us also to grow. So why now should we be shaking our head and w
...more
Zanna
Aug 22, 2013 Zanna rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-re-read, africa
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
May 19, 2013 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 13, 2007 J. Trott rated it it was amazing
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
Caroline
Oct 10, 2016 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african
Very intense and intensely written. Also beautifully written. I could only absorb about one chapter a day, both in content and language. Occasionally Armah gets carried away with an elaborate metaphor or description , but generally it works.

The book works to convey the profound tedium and despair of ever getting ahead in an honest manner, or getting a government that isn't just a new corrupt version of the old corrupt government. There is a lot of imagery of shit in this regard, in a simultaneo
...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
Jan 22, 2013 Sean McLachlan rated it it was amazing
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
May 27, 2012 Harry Rutherford rated it really liked it
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
Paul
Jan 24, 2017 Paul rated it really liked it
The Beautyful ones are not yet born by Ayi-Kweih-Armah is a novel that tells the story of a railway traffic control clerk in Ghana, who is disenchanted with life and the course of events in his country. The main character remains nameless, as Armah simply refers to him as ‘the man”. He feels very lonely and misunderstood and finds it increasingly difficult to live in his own country, on his own continent.

He has to hold out against the pressures of his ambitious wife and mother-in-law, who can’t
...more
Travis Hamilton
Aug 28, 2014 Travis Hamilton rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Ghana
Recommended to Travis by: Ghanians
In 2008 I visited Ghana for my first time. While there, I asked a few people if I was to read one book about Ghana, what book should I read. This was the book that so many of my friends mentioned. I didn't read it for many years, until my second visit to Ghana in 2014. I started reading the book on the airplane and finished it in Accra, Ghana.

The book was good in giving a greater insight into real Ghana, behind the walls and fences that is far from the tourist norms. Some of the book's content
...more
A.C.
Jul 11, 2008 A.C. rated it it was amazing
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
Monica
May 19, 2012 Monica rated it liked it
Shelves: african-lit
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
Jey
Sep 14, 2014 Jey rated it it was amazing
This is one of those novels where the scale of love and hate is at balance. The writing style is beautifully disgusting that it will render you nauseous. Armah's vivid description of whatever comes out of human orifices is but a technique to portray the corrupted and 'shit-caked' politics of Ghana.

The beauty of the book lies in the fact that one can see his country's reflection within the lines of the book: It isn't as Afrocentric as it seems. The book is raw and literally dirty, but spectacula
...more
Demetri Broxton-Santiago
Sep 22, 2007 Demetri Broxton-Santiago rated it it was amazing
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.
Lisa Faye
Aug 08, 2011 Lisa Faye rated it really liked it
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
Aug 13, 2010 Obote O.clause rated it it was amazing
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.
Shawn
Aug 23, 2016 Shawn rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Malvika Jolly
Oct 13, 2015 Malvika Jolly rated it it was amazing
there is a part that goes:

"When the war was over the soldiers came back to homes broken in their absence and they themselves brought murder in their hearts and gave it to those nearest them".

& this entire novel is equally, sublimely, stunning.

I really do think that Ayi Kwei Armah is that meeting-place of postcolonialism & poetry
that is so so important & crucial

like every word that Gayatri Spivak ever utters
is poetic, w/ purpose

I wish I had splurged & bought a print-copy of this b
...more
Thurston Hunger
Apr 15, 2009 Thurston Hunger rated it really liked it
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
Autumn
May 13, 2008 Autumn rated it it was amazing
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
Thendo Ndou
Jan 02, 2014 Thendo Ndou rated it liked it
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
Louise
May 07, 2011 Louise rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african
WOW! Such vivid descriptions of shit and filth that I won’t soon forget. And I will never touch a railing again! This man can write, and sometimes disturbingly so. The Ghana of the 60s described here is not a Ghana I would want to visit. I found the cynicism and pessimism rather depressing but Armah’s command of the English language is so beautiful I will read anything he has written.
Danielle
Apr 06, 2007 Danielle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kimberly
Aug 18, 2007 Kimberly rated it it was amazing
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."
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!
Mercy
Jun 01, 2010 Mercy rated it really liked it
Shelves: school-reads
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
Lisa
Jul 17, 2012 Lisa rated it liked it
Written in 1969 one can still see a lot of similarities in modern Africa today. Not uplifting but interesting.
Adam Dalva
Feb 17, 2017 Adam Dalva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bleak, interesting novel of corruption whose descriptions veer between the beautiful and the rancid. I don't think I've ever known a writer more preoccupied with human filth, and though Armah's choice is thematically on-the-nose (the story is of the lone man who resists corruption in mid-60's Ghana), the result is a unique mix of the visceral and cerebral. The opening is especially good, as is a lean Fellini-esque 1st person chapter at the halfway point. The book has a slight MFA vibe (the plot ...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
More about Ayi Kwei Armah...

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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.” 24 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.” 20 likes
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