The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah, a novel published in 1968 is about the last days in power of Ghana’s first Prime Minister, Kwame Nkrumah.
The book tackles the all too familiar phenomenon of African leaders that ascend into power fighting for the people, yet end up corrupt, tribalist and unproductive.
In this book we follow the life of an unnamed protagonist known only as “the man” who works at a railway station. The man is enticed with a bribe and when he refuses it he ends up in a disagreement with his wife.
The story is about life in post-colonial Ghana where bribery and corruption became a norm, and the writer uses a lot of metaphors to communicate the rot that engulfed the country until Kwame Nkrumah was deposed in a military coup.
This book is written in a typical post-colonial style of big words and very inaccessible language that requires the reader to keep reaching for the dictionary from time to time. Not necessarily a bad thing as it improves one’s vocabulary but it can really interfere with a smooth reading flow.
I quite enjoyed the historical, cultural and political lessons about the country of Ghana in this book, but I also realised that the story is relevant to so many other African states that received independence and/or freedom from European oppression, only to degenerate further into a state of disrepair.
The only negative to an otherwise perfect book is the language used and occasional self-indulgence of the writer; many a times he failed to resist the urge to use an easier, everyday word but instead opted to be flamboyant with the language unnecessarily.
I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in African literature, more especially books of such great topical interest, because even if it is not for the lessons contained in the book then it is certainly to have something to contribute when contents of this much-talked about book arise in conversation.
Out of ten, I rate The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born an 8, taking away the two points solely for the needless and inaccessible language used.
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