Out of Africa, by Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen
Out of Africa is a powerful and sensitive memoir by Isak Dinesen, which is a pen name, used by the Danish author Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke. It was first published in 1937, and recounts events of the seventeen years when Blixen made her home first in Kenya, where she owned a coffee farm at the foot of the Ngong Hills, then later in British East Africa. It is a truly wonderful storytelling book woven in the imaginative Danish style.
Bibliography, Karin Blixen/Isak Dinesen
- The Hermits (1907, in a Danish journal, using pen name Osceola)
- The Ploughman (1907, in a Danish journal as Osceola)
- The de Cats Family (1909, in Tilskueren)
- The Revenge of Truth (1926, published in Denmark)
- Seven Gothic Tales (1934)
- Out of Africa (1937)
- Winter's Tales (1942)
- The Angelic Avengers (1947)
- Last Tales (1957)
- Anecdotes of Destiny (1958)
- Shadows on the Grass (1960 )
- Ehrengard (posthumous 1963)
- Carnival: Entertainments and Posthumous Tales (posthumous 1977)
- Daguerreotypes and Other Essays (posthumous 1979)
- On Modern Marriage and Other Observations (posthumous 1986)
- Letters from Africa, 1914 – 1931 (posthumous 1981)
- Karen Blixen in Danmark: Breve 1931 – 1962 (posthumous 1996)
She portrays in rich detail the vast land around her, alive with strange and wonderful human populations; the thrilling terror of a nocturnal lion hunt; a shooting accident among the Africans on her farm and its repercussions; raising and freeing an orphaned antelope fawn; getting to know the Africans and the colonial adventurers who found their way into her life.
Out of Africa has five sections. The first two focus primarily on Africans who lived or had business on the farm. She tells with classic simplicity of the ways of the country and the natives: of the beauty of the Ngong Hills and coffee trees in blossom. She also includes observations of native ideas about justice and punishment in the wake of a gruesome accidental shooting.
The third section, “Visitors to the Farm,” describes some of the more colorful local characters who considered Blixen’s farm to be a safe haven. Her guests included the Prince of Wales. The fourth, “From an Immigrant’s Notebook,” is a collection of short sub-chapters in which Blixen reflects on the life of a white African colonist.
In the fifth section, “Farewell to the Farm,” Blixen details the farm’s financial failure, and the untimely deaths of several of her closest friends in Kenya. And as the book ends, the farm has been sold, and Blixen is on the Uganda Railway, heading toward the steamer on the coast, looking back and watching her beloved Ngong hills diminish behind her.
The stories are very interesting. They give a vivid snapshot of African colonial life in the last decades of the British Empire and tell an intriguing tale of a strong woman who runs a huge farm in a beautiful but very challenging country, at a point in time and space where men and women were not at all equal.
But more than anything it is Blixen's writing that is so sublime and extremely attractive. The writing is exquisite and magical. Even though Blixen was Danish, she wrote the book in English, and then later it was translated into Danish. There is nothing quite like her writing, both lyrical and enchanting at once. And full of powerful imagery conveying a deep love for Africa.
Out of Africa is more than a novel – it is a lyrical meditation.