Monday, April 11, 2011

Glen Retief: Homoeroticism and the Failure of African Nationalism in Ayi Kwei Armah's The Beautyful Ones

I am not a 'formal' student of Literature. In fact I cannot, in no other way, call myself a student of Literature, formal or informal for I read novels to enjoy them first, reflect on the second and connect the dots later. These latter two always occur way after the novels have been read. Sometimes months or even years. In fact I still think about novels I read as far back as 2005. Hence, I am the last person to make a critique, academically, a novel or even read research articles based on literary writings. I am scared. My training is in Agricultural Economics and I stay with it.

However, I was browsing the net and accidentally found this article. Because I have not access to the main article I could only read the abstracts. From what I could glean from the abstract, Ayi Kwei Armah's Novel The Beautyful Ones are Not yet Born, is a subtle or subliminal way of telling Africans to embrace same-sex desire and human rights for sexual minorities. The Abstract:
Building on the work of Stewart Crehan, Joshua D. Esty, and others, this paper "queers" Armah's canonical novel of disillusionment with the African nation state, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, by tracing sublimated and explicit expressions of homoerotic desire through the text. The protagonist's scatology is seen not just as a metaphor for the postcolonial predicament, but also as a psychological defense mechanism holding at bay a taboo form of sexual expression—a desire implicit in the protagonist's self-sacrificing and profound love for Koomson. Reread this way, The Beautyful Onesis understood as an allegory for the need for African nationalism to embrace same-sex desire and human rights for sexual minorities. By Glen Retief (Research in African Literature - Volume 40, Number 3, Fall 2009, pp. 62-73)
I have never attributed this highly-acclaimed novel to sexual minority or the need to embrace it. Consequently, I would be searching for and reading the full article so we could discuss this properly her. But in the interim, do you think such an association could be part of Armah's thought-processes in writing this novel? Or is it simply an association a researcher is making based on his own readings?
I can't access the document. It's limited and I would be glad if anyone who gets it could share it with me at freduagyeman(AT)yahoo(DOT)com. Thanks


  1. It looks like my university doesn't have access, either. Sorry!

  2. @Stefania i have been able to get one html. Don't know he it is the complete article. It's about one and half pages long. Send me your email.

  3. It is just an association which does not have sufficient evidence. The Man helps Koomson for the wife's sake--partly because Koomson is an old friend who helped the man's wife too. There is lack of evidence. I belong to the new school of literary criticism where a text is all we need for analysis. But I will wait and see.

  4. @Nana I also agree that the text should be used and not the researcher's own associations. Interpreting the unsaid parts of a writer's work could easily lead to misinterpretation and wrongful attribution. I would send you a copy too so we could all read his article.

  5. @Stefania and Nana Yaw Sarpong... please follow this link to access the document

    I am not sure if this essay is complete.

  6. Hmmm I'll certainly be keeping this thought in mind when I eventually read the book.

  7. @Amy perhaps you might spot it. For as Nana Yaw said this is an interpretation of the writer's mind using implied references and not directly based on the text. One would say that the metaphors Glen mentioned or the symbols he referred to were over-stretched in its application to homoeroticism. However, as a novice in literary criticism i would state my thought and leave the rest for the masters. Let me know if you find such associations


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