Thursday, April 4, 2013

Out of Africa, Out on Safaris

I am almost finished reading the mesmerizing Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen which recounts her years spent on her coffee plantation near Nairobi. I will review it in detail soon, but here is a sample of her style of writing. To her, a safari was a trek out into the country, not a hunt. It is all one paragraph, just as she wrote it:

Out on the Safaris, I had seen a herd of Buffalo, one hundred and twenty-nine of them, come out of the morning mist under a copper sky, one by one, as if the dark and massive, iron-like animals with the mighty horizontally swung horns were not approaching, but were being created before my eyes and sent out as they were finished. I had seen a herd of Elephant traveling through dense Native forest, where the sunlight is strewn down between the thick creepers in small spots and patches, pacing along as if they had an appointment at the end of the world. It was, in giant size, the border of a very old, infinitely precious Persian carpet in the dyes of green, yellow and black-brown. I had time after time watched the progression across the plain of the Giraffe, in their queer, inimitable, vegetative gracefulness, as if it were not a herd of animals but a family of rare, long-stemmed, speckled gigantic flowers slowly advancing. I had followed two Rhinos on their morning promenade, when they were sniffing and snorting in the air of dawn, --which is so cold that it hurts in the nose, -- and looked like two very big angular stones rollicking in the long valley enjoying life together. I had seen the royal lion, before sunrise, below a waning moon, crossing the grey plain on his way home from the kill, drawing a dark wake in the silvery grass, his face still red up to the ears, or during the midday-siesta, when he reposed contentedly in the midst of his family on the short grass and in the delicate, spring-like shade of the broad Acacia trees of his park of Africa.


  1. Dinesen's prose brings one right to the time and place of its origin, doesn't it, Belle. It has been years since I've read "Out of Africa". Just this one paragraph makes me want to pick it up once again.

    1. Her style is very atmospheric. I sometimes get lost in her wanderings within a sentence, but overall I found her to be very lyrical.