Monday, April 8, 2013

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

While reading Out of Africa I couldn't help picturing Karen Blixen (writing as Isak Dinesen) sitting at her desk in watery Denmark putting her memories of heat-seared Africa down on paper by the light of a kerosene or gas lamp. The book is one long letter to a lost love. Each page is tinged with wistfulness and sadness.

Blixen arrived in Kenya with her husband in 1914. She was 29 years old. They settled "at the foot of the Ngong Hills" to begin life as owners of a coffee plantation. They soon separated (he is never mentioned in the book) but Ms. Blixen stayed on and worked the farm for twelve years. Some years she was successful, other years not so much.

When the hard times only get harder, she is forced to sell the farm and moves back to Denmark.

The book is not a day-by-day account of her life there. It is more a collage of stories of crops, oxen, plows, weather, tribal ways, wild beasts, European visitors, rain, native dances, mountains, plains, costumes, wind, grasses, thunder, missionaries, injuries, and deaths.

I would have lasted maybe three minutes in the face of it all.

The depth of her love for Africa and the loss she feels upon having to leave haunts each page. She writes beautifully, weaving her memories and tales with such an obvious affection. It is a wonderfully complex account of a woman and her love affair with a wild and dark continent.


  1. Now I want to read this again. You've captured Out of Africa and Isak Dinesen so well.

    1. Thanks Penny. I resisted reading this book for a long time, but oh so glad that I finally overcame that! I hope you enjoy re-reading it. Now, I want to see the movie again just for the scenery alone!