Nº109 Karen BlixenHelga Mjöll Oddsdóttir
Karen von Blixen-Finecke was born April 17th, 1885 in Rungsted, Denmark. From a young age, she showed interest in art and storytelling, and when it was time for her to go off to school she chose to attend the Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen. In 1907, she published her first short story, Eneboerne.
Shortly after her works began to be published, she married Bror von Blixen-FInecke, and they decided to set off to Kenya in 1914 and began a coffee plantation business. Bror worked on the farm at first, but it soon became clear that he was uninterested in it and instead wanted to leave it to Blixen while he went on safari. The two began facing difficulties, and eventually divorced in 1925. She continued to write during her time in Kenya, and she started writing in English, for she realized her books would be more profitable that way. She made the choice to return to Denmark permanently in 1931.
Blixen began to take her literary career very seriously after her return. Isak Dinesen was her pen name when she authored her first book. Seven Gothic Tales (1934). It ended up being hailed as a masterpiece in the United States and the United Kingdom, but it was overlooked in her homeland for its aesthetic merit.
Blixen’s second novel was a huge success, cementing her status as a respected author of her time. Titled Out of Africa (1937), the book is semi-autobiographical about her time in Kenya. Some time later, the book was adapted for the big screen, with Blixen being portrayed by Meryl Streep, and it won seven Academy Awards in 1986, including Best Picture.
Blixen passed away in 1962, but her legacy lives on through her works. Today, you can visit her old home, which is now a museum, called the Rungstedlund Museum, in Rungsted. Her land and home in Kenya has also been turned into a museum, the Karen Blixen Museum. The museum house has been designated as a notable cultural site, not only because of its connection to Blixen, but also because it is a cultural symbol of Kenya’s European settlement, as well as a noteworthy architectural style.
Seven Gothic Tales (1934 in USA, 1935 in Denmark)
Out of Africa (1937 in Denmark and England, 1938 in USA)
For a full list of Blixen’s books click here.
Below is a clip from Out of Africa.