47 pages 1 hour read

Dinaw Mengestu

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2007

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Important Quotes

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“‘Our memories,’ Joseph says, ‘are like a river cut off from the ocean. With time they will slowly dry out in the sun, and so we drink and drink and drink and we can never have our fill.’” 

(Chapter 1, Page 8)

Memories are very important to the immigrant men throughout the book and to the narrative. Because they can never return to their homeland and they feel out of place in America, Joseph, Kenneth, and Sepha need each other to keep the memories alive and to sustain some sense of comfort and home. They play their game of coups and dictators, they sing of revolution, and they reminisce about people, places, and times gone by. In this quote, Joseph captures the longing and nostalgia for home.

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“‘Your father is already dead,’ I tell him. ‘And so is yours, Stephanos. Don’t you worry you’ll forget him someday?’ ‘No. I don’t. I still see him everywhere I go.’ ‘All of our fathers are dead,’ Joseph adds. ‘Exactly,’ Kenneth says. It’s the closest we’ve ever come to a resolution.” 

(Chapter 1, Page 10)

In addition to the continent of Africa, each of the three friends have also lost their fathers. While they come from different countries and have different dreams and aspirations, all three men can agree on this shared loss. Joseph sees a metaphor for Africa in everything, Kenneth focuses on becoming American while mourning the loss of his father’s face, and Sepha remains haunted by his father still. With each man suffering and longing in their own way, the three can agree that they all have the loss of their fathers in common.