The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

by Ayi Kwei Armah
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What is the meaning of the title The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born?

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There are a few possible meanings for the title of the novel, though the author Ayi Kwei Armah himself outlined his reasoning behind choosing the title in a 2009 reprint of the book:

The phrase 'The Beautiful One' is ancient, at least five thousand years old. To professional Egyptologists, it is a praise name for a central figure in Ancient Egyptian culture, the dismembered and remembered Osiris, a sorrowful reminder of our human vulnerability to division, fragmentation and degeneration, and at the same time a symbol of our equally human capacity for unity, cooperative action, and creative regeneration.

In short, the meaning is twofold: The Beautyful Ones (a misspelling taken from a sign in the novel) have, of course, already been born, but for a myriad of reasons they do not know their own power. The other meaning is that those alive in the world now, to suffer its sorrows and wonder what will happen, try to take hope in the fact that those who will make things better will come in the next generations.

In referring to Osiris, the author allows for a connection between the original myth and the book's title: Osiris is murdered and his less-deserving brother assumes authority; then, Osiris is resurrected stronger. Since the novel takes place during a change of regime in Ghana, the title indicates that death and disorder are part of life—but so is renewal.

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