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Armah's The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

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Armah's The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

Post by flouna on Mon Jul 04 2011, 14:16

This book (published in 1968) is Ayi Kwei Armah's masterpiece. It portrays the African bourgeoisie's mad rush to worship at the altar of materialism. Ayi Kwei Armah is from the city of Takoradi in Ghana and his book describes in a vivid and pungent manner the misery of daily life for the ordinary Ghanaians, side by side with the corruption ridden opulence of the business and political elite.
The central character in the book is "the man", who has no name because the likes of him are not yet born. He is amongst "those of us whose entrails are not strong enough for the national game" - the "game" of corruption. The narrative chronicles the life experiences of "the man", at work, at home, and as he struggles to travel between home and work in the jungle of the gele-gele and taxi transport system where there is "no heart feeling". One taxi driver nearly kills him as he walks along the road and then verbally assaults him: "Uncircumcised baboon, moron of a frog. If your time has come, search for someone else to take your worthless life". The man's reply is a meek "I wasn't looking, I am sorry". It is the taxi driver who nearly killed him, but the "the man" steadfastly refuses to feel anger or bitterness towards anyone. He also determinedly refuses to accept the bribery constantly offered him at work, acceptance of which would make life for him far far easier because his
colleagues would admire him and his wife, who now despises him, would love him.
His wife despises him because he cannot, or rather will not, provide what his formerly "stupid" schoolmate, the Hon. Minister, can now provide for his wife: "My wife has seen the true salvation ... it is the blinding gleam of beautiful new houses and the shine of a powerful new mercedes, the scent of a new perfume and the mass of hair that is a new wig". The incorruptible man's response to his wife's reproach is "... it should not be possible for the guiltless to be beaten down with the accusations of those so near". Chased out of the house, after a hard day at work, by his wife's disdain, "the man" wanders the night streets and ends up in his teacher’s house. There he pours his troubles out to his teacher, a "lonely" philosopher who has dropped out of the rat-race, run away from "oppressive" family and friends and lives alone in a simple room in town. But the man is not spared by his teacher either: "It may be you cannot lie very well and you cannot steal", says the teacher, the message to the man being to stop moaning and criticising those who are more able at lying and stealing.
This book is a difficult read because of the sense of hopelessness running through it. On the last page "the man" watches the dexterity with which the policeman folds away the money that the bus-driver hands over with his documents. As the policeman pretends to look at the documents and hands them back to the driver, he sees "the man" watching and smiles. The bus driver gets in and drives off. As the bus disappears off into the distance, the man reads what is written on the back of the bus: "The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born". Then the man turned and "He walked very slowly, going home".

Reference: Book review Armah's novel, by Dida Halake.

For further readings, check these links:

http://mpagazedenis.blogspot.com/2007/12/beautyful-ones-are-not-yet-born.html

http://www.scribd.com/doc/18107650/The-Beautyful-Ones-Are-Not-Yet-Born-by-Ayi-Kwei-armah

flouna

Posts : 135
Join date : 2011-02-03

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