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fragments by ayi kwei armah

Fragments by Ayi Kwei Armah


Boston : Houghton Mifflin Company, 1969. First Printing. Stated. Hardcover. 287 pages ; 22 cm. $5.95 dust jacket with minimal wear. Owner name on front free endpaper. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.


Ayi Kwei Armah's first novel, The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born, was published in August, 1968. Time Magazine called the author "an artist right to his sizzling nerve ends." The New York Times called his book "a rarity not only in the first rank of African novels . . . but perhaps in the first rank of recent novels anywhere."

His second novel takes its major theme from the shattered spiritual vision versus the grotesque material expectations of Africa today. The larger vision in Fragments belongs mainly to three characters:

NAANA — an old woman grown completely blind, whose shut-in mind disturbs her with recurrent dreams of an Africa not so eager to destroy itself in the chase after things — a better, more spiritual community.

BAAKO — her grandson, a young artist just back from a foreign university, hoping to do useful creative work in a society increasingly reluctant to recognize beauty in anything other than material riches and power.

JUANA — a Puerto Rican woman psychiatrist working in West Africa, for whom the place is another station in a quest for purpose.

These three share a pagan vision of life, whose aim lies not in the successful individual's lonely scramble to the top of a society in diseased pain, but in the purification of the poisoned environment itself.

The vision is out of joint, of course. For the whole society — and most emphatically the pompous, ostentatious and self-satisfied elite running it — is headily convinced of the exact opposite; the triumphant, overwhelming expectation is that social wealth should consistently go to stuff private bellies while public power is used to bloat petty egos.

Inexorably, the vision collides with the massive solidity of this expectation and the impact shatters it. And Baako's peace of mind, never too certain, is also broken. Juana, brought closest to Baako by a love as sensual as it is deeply spiritual, offers a quiet hope. And the book ends as it began, with a mystic, poetic invocation by Naana to her departed ancestors.

AYI KWEI ARMAH, 29, was educated at Achimota, Ghana, then at Groton and Harvard. After three years at home he left Ghana late in 1967 to work for the magazine Jeune Afrique in Paris. He is currently at Columbia University, participating in the Graduate Writing Program there on a grant from the Farfield Foundation.

Besides his novels, he has published short fiction in Harper's and the Atlantic.

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