Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) – Danish Denizen of Africa

Day 123 of Colourisation Project – September 7

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Danish author Karen Blixen died this day, 7 September 1962.  Best known by her  pseudonym Isak Dinesen, she also wrote under the pen names Tania Blixen, Osceola and Pierre Andrézel. She wrote in English, French and Danish and is best remembered for her memoir, Out of Africa, her account of living in Kenya, and Babette’s Feast. Both works capture beautifully the romantic spirit of time & place: a coffee plantation in colonial Kenya and a 19th century Scandinavian village. And both have been adapted into highly acclaimed, Academy award-winning films.

Karen Blixen

Passport Photo  –  Karen Blixen  –  Coloured by Loredana Crupi

She first came to public attention with Seven Gothic Tales (1934) published by America’s Random House after she was unable to find a publisher in England or Denmark.  Unabashedly aristocratic, she wrote under her pen name Isak Dinesen. Though most readers thought she was a man, her enigmatic and sometimes erotic tales captured the minds of American readers with each tale set in another era, and involving a case of mistaken identity and an unexpected ending.

Out of Africa followed soon after in 1937, firmly establishing Blixen as an author. In 1939 she was given the Tagea Brandt Rejselegat, Denmark’s highest accolade for women in the arts or academic life.

Other notable works of fiction include Winter’s Tales (1942) and The Angelic Avengers (1944) seen as an allegory of Nazism. According to Blixen, she saw herself as a traditional storyteller in the way of the oral tradition of telling stories and drew her inspiration from the Bible, the Arabian Nights, the works of Homer, Boccaccio, Don Quixote, the Icelandic sagas and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen.

She was awarded the Danish Ingenio et Arti medal in 1950. Much of her work was published posthumously. Released first in English then later in Danish, her work is still published in many languages. 

Her popularity as an author was revived in 1985, when Out of Africa was translated onto the big screen with Meryl Streep cast as Blixen and Robert Redford portraying her hunter lover, Hatton.

Two years later in 1987, Babette’s Feast became the first Danish film of a Blixen story. It was also the first Danish film to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

A 2007 opinion poll in Denmark lists Karen Blixen as one of the most representative personalities in Danish history.  She was several times nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Although never awarded the prize, she was recognized by other literary giants. Ernest Hemingway graciously said in 1954 that she should have won the prize instead of him. She finished in third place behind Graham Greene in 1961.

Blixen continued writing up until her death in 1962 at the age of 77 of malnutrition.

Blixen left an indelible impression in Nairobi.  Karen, the suburb of Nairobi where she made her home and operated her coffee plantation was named after her. The Karen Blixen Coffee House and Museum is located in Karen  and her home in Denmark has been converted to the Karen Blixen Museet.

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“A visitor is a friend, he brings news, good or bad, which is bread to the hungry minds in lonely places. A real friend who comes to the house is a heavenly messenger, who brings the panis angelorum.”   ― Karen Blixen, Out of Africa

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2 Responses to Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) – Danish Denizen of Africa

  1. Wonderful choice of person to feature today. I love Karen Blixen’s work. Seven Gothic Tales is such an interesting collection of the strangest stories you’ll ever read and Out of Africa is simply a masterpiece. Somehow I missed knowing that Babette’s Feast was authored by her as well – the film is one of my favourite foodie flicks! Her work reminds me a lot of Doris Lessing’s. They both manage to be simultaneously timeless yet utterly rooted in their respective present.

    Like

  2. Loredana Isabella Crupi says:

    Thanks, Chez! I agree Out of Africa is a great read. I’m not familiar with the Seven Gothic Tales but my research on Blixen has certainly whetted my appetite for more of her stories. And Babette’s feast (film) whets the appetite every time! I have loved that film several times over. I guess I should read that book too!

    Cheers
    Lori 🙂

    Like

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