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The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  2,680 ratings  ·  202 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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Tamfu I studied the book in high school and its very educative.The book portrays not only Nigeria but most African countries

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Jul 29, 2012 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
Sep 14, 2013 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
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
Aug 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-re-read
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
J. Trott
Oct 13, 2007 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
May 19, 2013 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. ...more
Ayanda Xaba
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
The story of Africa told through a man who refused to bend his values to fit into the system... It is always interesting to see how African countries are similar when it comes to politics. The era that this book talks about was the most challenging in African politics, and the writer managed to pen it down so well. The story pulls you in gently while reminding you of the path we have travelled, and are still travelling, as Africans in politics. I really enjoyed it.
Harry Rutherford
May 27, 2012 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
Oct 10, 2016 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
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
Sean McLachlan
Jan 22, 2013 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
Sep 14, 2014 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
Paul Lothane
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An early "African classic" by Armah - warning against the deleterious effects of proliferating corruption, which, alas many decades later has brought much of Africa to its knees ...more
Carlos Battaglini (English)
Jan 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
(More information at

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 hi
Kobe Bryant
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked the part where hes hanging out with his teacher
Travis Hamilton
Aug 28, 2014 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
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one well written book. At times it is gritty, full of despair, hopelessness and the filth of human waste. It paints the picture of an educated Ghanian civil servant, only known as the man, living with the only thing he has - his values - which sees him reject the Ghanian national sport of corruption in a country where socialism has failed due to the greed of the government and those who were in positions of power.

There is a lot of power in the story telling and the actions of the charact
Malvika Jolly
Oct 13, 2015 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 book
rather than t
Adam Dalva
Feb 17, 2017 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
Jul 11, 2008 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
May 19, 2012 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
Demetri Broxton-Santiago
Sep 22, 2007 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 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 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.
Puleng Hopper
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
An essential African read
Oumaima Atti
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
A brilliant read. Armah teaches us how to use literature as a powerful device to assert social change. The protagonist, an unnamed man, is a quintessential worker in a railway station whose values collide with the pervasive corruption and decay in neo-colonial Ghana. He represents the working class of postcolonial Ghana: potent and steadfast. "The man" along with characters such as "Maanan, Kofi Billy, the teacher, and others" are fascinatingly explored in this novel for their resistance to what ...more
M. Ainomugisha
Sep 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Armah’s writing requires a great deal of effort to grasp initially but his impressive treatment of corruption makes up for it.

Ghana in this period was on the precipice of change from socialism to another economic model. The characters express their absence of hope in these changes because they are not gaining in any meaningful way. The main character (left unnamed) disabuses commonly held notions of surreptitiously acquiring wealth on moral grounds and is repeatedly derided for it.

I appreciate
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A true classic of African post-colonial litterature, written long ago (1960s) but still relevant today: many citizens nowadays are equally desperate about personal opportunities to have a better life and about rampant corruption that erodes the cohesion of societies.

Though it took me some chapters to get into the story, I started appreciating the novel and the main character (the man) more and more while progressing towards the end. Though the man is considered by society (and by his loved ones)
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's been a while since a book so thoroughly depressed me. Perhaps its because it hits close to home; I am half-Ghanaian.

But certainly it is also the mood of the novel. Ayi Kwei Armah is masterful in creating this distinctive ambience with his small but meaningful choices. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born was written in existentialism's heydays the 1960s but the particularity of the main character's experience helps it stand out from other works published at the time. It is so Ghanaian in way
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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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