Karen Blixen

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Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke
Karen Blixen cropped from larger original.jpg
Blixen in 1957
Born 17 April 1885
Rungsted, Denmark
Died 7 September 1962(1962-09-07) (aged 77)
Rungsted, Denmark
Occupation Writer
Notable works Out of Africa, Seven Gothic Tales, Shadows on the Grass, Babette's Feast

Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke (Danish: [kʰɑːɑn ˈb̥leɡ̊sn̩]; 17 April 1885 – 7 September 1962), née Karen Christenze Dinesen, was a Danish author, also known by the pen name Isak Dinesen, who wrote works in Danish, French and English. She also at times used the pen names Tania Blixen, Osceola, and Pierre Andrézel.

Blixen is best known for Out of Africa, an account of her life while living in Kenya, and for one of her stories, Babette's Feast, both of which have been adapted into Academy Award-winning motion pictures. She is also noted for her Seven Gothic Tales, particularly in Denmark.

Blixen was considered several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Biography[edit]

Karen Blixen photographed in 1913

Early years[edit]

The Mattrup seat farm, 1861
Karen Blixen with her brother Thomas on the family farm in Kenya in the 1920s

Karen Dinesen was born in the manor house of Rungstedlund, north of Copenhagen, the daughter of Ingeborg (née Westenholz 1856–1939) whose grandfather Andreas Nicolai Hansen (1798–1873) had been a successful Copenhagen merchant, and Wilhelm Dinesen (1845–1895), a writer and army officer from a family of Jutland landowners.[1] The second oldest in a family of three sisters and two brothers, her younger brother, Thomas Dinesen, grew up to earn the Victoria Cross in the First World War. Her mother Ingeborg came from a wealthy Unitarian bourgeois merchant family, unlike her father who had an aristocratic background closely connected to the monarchy, the established church and conservative politics.[2] Dinesen was known to her friends not as "Karen" but as "Tanne".[3]

Dinesen's early years had been strongly influenced by her father Wilhelm Dinesen, thanks to his relaxed manner and his love of the outdoor life.[4] He also wrote throughout his life and his memoir, Boganis Jagtbreve (Letters From the Hunt) became a minor classic in Danish literature.[3] From August 1872 to December 1873, Wilhelm had lived among the Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin, where he fathered a daughter. On returning to Denmark, he suffered from syphilis which resulted in bouts of deep depression.[5] After conceiving a child out of wedlock with his maid Anna Rasmussen, he was devastated by breaking his promise to his mother-in-law, 'Mama' Mary Lucinde Westenholz, to remain faithful to his wife Ingeborg. As a result, he hanged himself on 28 March 1895 when Karen was almost ten.[6]

Karen Dinesen's life at Rungstedlund changed significantly after her father's death, from then on dominated by her Westenholz family. Unlike her brothers who attended school, she was educated at home by her maternal grandmother and by her aunt, Mary B. Westenholz, who brought her up in the staunch Unitarian tradition. Aunt Bess, as Westenholz was known to Dinesen, had a significant impact on her niece and they engaged in lively discussions and correspondence on women's rights and relationships between men and women.[2] During her early years, Dinesen spent part of her time at her mother's family home, the Mattrup seat farm near Horsens, while in later years there were visits to Folehavegård, an estate near Hørsholm which had belonged to her father's family. Longing for the freedom she had enjoyed when her father was alive, she was able to find some satisfaction in telling her younger sister Ellen hair-raising good-night stories, partly inspired by Danish folk tales and Icelandic sagas. In 1905, these led to her Grjotgard Ålvesøn og Aud in which her literary talent began to emerge. Around this time, she also published fiction in Danish periodicals under the pseudonym Osceola,[2][4] the name of her father's dog, which she had often walked in her father's company.[3]

In 1898, Dinesen and her two sisters spent a year in Switzerland where she learnt to speak French with the same ease as she had acquired English at home. In 1902, she attended Charlotte Sode's art school in Copenhagen before continuing her studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts under Viggo Johansen (1903–06).[4] In her mid-twenties, she also visited Paris, London and Rome on study trips. While still young, Dinesen spent many of her holidays with her paternal cousin's family, the Blixen-Fineckes, in Skåne in the south of Sweden. She first fell madly in love with the dashing equestrian Hans but he did not reciprocate. She therefore decided to accept the favours of his twin brother, Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke, announcing their engagement on 23 December 1912 to the family's general surprise. Given the difficulties both were experiencing in settling in Denmark, the family suggested they should move abroad. Their common uncle, Aage Westenholz (1859–1935) who had made a fortune in Siam, suggested they should go to Kenya to start a coffee farm. He and his sister Ingeborg Dinesen invested 150,000 Danish crowns in the venture.[2][7] Early in 1913, Bror Blixen-Finecke left for Kenya, followed by his fiancée in December.[4]

Life in Kenya[edit]

Blixen's African home, now the Karen Blixen Museum

Soon after Dinesen arrived in Kenya, which at the time was part of British East Africa, she and Blixen married in Mombassa on January 14, 1914.[8] After her marriage, she was known as Baroness Blixen, and used the title until 1929, when her ex-spouse remarried.[9] Initially, they planned to raise cattle on their farm, but were convinced that coffee would be more profitable.[10] The Karen Coffee Company was established by Aage Westerholz, who chose the name after his daughter Karen, Blixen's cousin, rather than to create an association with Karen Blixen.[5] The couple soon established their first farm, M'Bagathi, in the Great Lakes area, but quickly ran into difficulties caused by the outbreak of the First World War. Fighting between the Germans and British in East Africa led to a shortage of workers and supplies. Nevertheless, in 1916, the Karen Coffee Company purchased a larger farm, M'Bogani, near the Ngong Hills to the north of Nairobi. It covered 6,000 acres of land, of which 600 were used for a coffee plantation. The remainder were used by the natives for grazing while 2,000 acres of virgin forest were left untouched.[4]

The land was not suited for coffee cultivation, being too high in elevation.[2][4] The couple hired local workers, predominantly the Kikuyu people who lived on the farmlands at the time of their arrival but there were also Wakamba, Kavirondo, Swahili and Masai.[11] Initially Bror Blixen-Finecke worked the farm, but it soon became evident that he had little interest in it and preferred to leave running the farm to Blixen while he went on safari.[2][4] For the first time, English became the language she used daily.[3] About the couple's early life in the African Great Lakes region, Karen Blixen later wrote,

Here at long last one was in a position not to give a damn for all conventions, here was a new kind of freedom which until then one had only found in dreams![12]

Karen Blixen and her husband were quite different in education and temperament, and Bror Blixen was unfaithful to his wife. She was diagnosed with syphilis toward the end of their first year of marriage in 1915.[11] According to her biographer Judith Thurman, she contracted the disease from her husband.[13] She returned to Denmark in June 1915 for treatment which proved successful. Although Blixen's illness was eventually cured (some uncertainty exists), it created medical anguish for years to come. By 1919, the marriage had run into serious difficulties, causing her husband to request a divorce in 1920. Against her wishes, the couple separated in 1921, and were officially divorced in 1925.[8] Bror Blixen was dismissed as the farm manager by Aage Westenholz, chair of the Karen Coffee Company, and Karen Blixen took over its management[11] officially in 1921.[2][4]

Denys Finch Hatton, around 1910–1920

In 1918, Karen Blixen met the English big game hunter Denys Finch Hatton (1887–1931), an English army officer and aristocrat. He often travelled back and forth between Africa and England and would visit her occasionally.[10] After her separation from her husband she and Finch Hatton developed a close friendship which eventually became a long-term love affair. In a letter to her brother Thomas in 1924, she wrote: "I believe that for all time and eternity I am bound to Denys, to love the ground he walks upon, to be happy beyond words when he is here, and to suffer worse than death many times when he leaves..."[14] But other letters in her collections show that the relationship was unstable,[1] and that Blixen's increasingly dependent behavior upon Finch Hatton, who was intensely independent was at issue.[10]

Finch Hatton used Blixen's farmhouse as a home base between 1926 and 1931, when on safari with his clients. He died in the crash of his de Havilland Gipsy Moth biplane in March 1931. At the same time, the failure of the coffee plantation, as a result of mismanagement, the height of the farm, drought and the falling price of coffee caused by the worldwide economic depression, forced Blixen to abandon her beloved estate.[4][15] The family corporation sold the land to a residential developer, and Blixen returned Denmark in August 1931 to live with her mother. She remained in Rungstedlund for the rest of her life.[11]

Life as a writer[edit]

Jurij Moskvitin (middle) accompanying Blixen (right) and meeting composer Igor Stravinsky (left) at the Copenhagen City Hall, 1959

While still in Kenya, Blixen had written to her brother Thomas, "I have begun to do what we brothers and sisters do when we don't know what else to resort to, I have started to write a book... I have been writing in English because I thought it would be more profitable."[9][16] On returning to Denmark, she continued writing in earnest. Though her first book, Seven Gothic Tales, was completed in 1933, she had difficulty finding a publisher and used her brother's contacts with Dorothy Canfield to help find a printer for her work.[17] It was published in the US in 1934 under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen,[15] though the publisher refused to give Blixon an advance and had discouraged use of a pseudonym. When it was chosen as a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, sales skyrocketed.[9] This first book, highly enigmatic and more metaphoric than Gothic, won wide recognition in the United States, and publication of the book in Great Britain and Denmark followed,[17] though with difficulty. Unable to find a translator she was satisfied with, Blixen prepared the Danish versions herself, though they are not translations, but rather close versions of the stories with differing details. Blixen's explanation for the difference was that she, "...very much wanted it to be published in Danish as an original Danish book, and not in any—no matter how good—translation". The Danish critics were not enthusiastic about the book and were annoyed, according to Blixen, that it had first been published abroad. Blixen never again published a book in English first. Either her books were released first in Danish, or simultaneously in Danish and English.[9]

Her second book, now the best known of her works, Out of Africa,[18] was published in 1937 and its success firmly established her reputation as an author. Having learned from her previous experience, Blixen published the book first in Denmark and England and then in the U.S. Garnering another Book-of-the-Month Club choice, Blixen was assured of not only sales for this new work, but also renewed interest in Seven Gothic Tales.[9][10] She was awarded the Tagea Brandt Rejselegat (a Danish prize for women in the arts or academic life) in 1939.[19] The work brought much review from critics who were not only concerned with the literary appraisal of the book, as much as they were in defining Blixen's own intentions and morality. Post-colonial criticism has linked her with contemporary British writers and in some cases branded her among the white European aristocrats who were morally bankrupt. Danish scholars have not typically made judgments about her morality,[20] perhaps understanding that while elements of racism and colonial prejudices, given the context and era are inherent in the work, her position as an outsider, a Dane and a woman, made evaluating her, rather than the work, more complex.[21] Some critics, including Carolyn Martin Shaw and Raoul Granqvist, have judged her to be a racist and supremacist,[22] while other critics like Abdul R. JanMohamed recognized both her romanticized colonial attitudes and her understanding of colonial problems, as well as her concern and respect for African nationalists.[23]

Five years after the publication of Out of Africa, Blixen released a collection of short stories called Winter's Tales (1942; Danish: Vinter-eventyr).[24] A departure from her previous Gothic works, the stories reflect the starkness of the times, occupation tinged with courage and pride, and hope for the future. The stories do not reflect resistance, but resilience, and explore the interdependence of opposites.[25] She examined shame versus pride in "The Heroine", cowardice and courage in "The Pearls", master and servant in "The Invincible Slave-Owners",[26] and life versus death as well as freedom versus imprisonment in "Peter and Rosa". In "Sorrow-acre", the best-known story of the collection, Blixen explored victimization and oppression.[27] Because of the war, she had to be creative about getting the manuscript published, traveling to Stockholm and meeting with employees at both the American and British embassies. The Americans were unable to ship personal items, but the British embassy agreed, shipping the document to her publisher in the United States. Blixen did not receive further communication about Winter's Tales until the war ended when she received correspondence praising the stories from American troops who had read them in the Armed Services Editions during the conflict.[28]

Blixen worked on a novel she called Albondocani for many years, hoping to produce a volume in the style of Les Hommes de Bonne Volunté (fr) by Jules Romains, with interwoven stories across several volumes. The main character, Harun al-Rashid, was featured in One Thousand and One Nights. In actuality, she was simultaneously working on several collections at once, categorizing them according to both theme[29] and whether she thought they were marketable, written mostly to make money,[30] or literary. She jumped between writing the collections of stories for Albondocani to Anecdotes of Destiny to New Gothic Tales and New Winter’s Tales.[29] Almost all of Blixen's tales from the 1940s and 1950s follow a traditional style of storytelling,[15] weaving Gothic themes such as incest and murder with myth and bewitchment as a means of exploring identity, morality and philosophy.[31] Most also take place against the background of the 19th century or earlier periods.[32] Concerning her deliberately old-fashioned style, Blixen mentioned in several interviews that she wanted to express a spirit that no longer existed in modern times, one of being rather than just doing.[33][28] Her narratives hover between skillfully crafted illusion and romanticism,[34] with a keen knowledge of the preferred tastes of her audience. Blixen crafted her English tales in a more direct manner and her Danish tales in a 19th century writing style which she felt would appeal more to them.[35] Because she simultaneously worked on different collections, works written in this period were not published until almost a decade after they were originally written.[36]

During World War II, when Denmark was occupied by the Germans, Blixen started her only full-length novel, the introspective tale The Angelic Avengers, under another pseudonym, Pierre Andrezel. Though written in Danish, she claimed it was a translation of a French work written in the interwar period and denied being its author. The book was published in 1944[37] and nominated for a third Book-of-the-Month Club selection. Blixen initially did not want the book to be nominated, but eventually accepted the distinction.[38] The horrors experienced by the young heroines were interpreted as an allegory of Nazism,[15] though Blixen also denied that interpretation, claiming instead that it was only a distraction for her to escape the feeling of being imprisoned by the war.[37] In 1956, in an interview for The Paris Review, she finally acknowledged that she was the author, saying it was her "illegitimate child".[38][28] Dorothy Canfield described "The Angelic Avengers" in her Book-of-the-Month Club News review, as "of superlatively fine literary quality, written with distinction in an exquisite style".[9]

A collection of stories, Last Tales (Danish: Sidste fortællinger) was published in 1957, followed the next year by the collection Anecdotes of Destiny (Danish: Skæbne-Anekdoter).[39] Last Tales included seven stories that Blixen had intended to be part of Albondocani. It also included sections called New Gothic Tales and New Winter's Tales.[40] Blixen's concept of the art of the story is perhaps most directly expressed in the stories of "The Blank Page" and "The Cardinal's First Tale" from her fifth book, Last Tales. These tales illustrate her use of innuendo, which Blixen employed to force her reader into participating in the creation of the story.[41] Though she used techniques of oral storytellers, Blixen entwined obscure references with explicit observation. Her writing was not just a retelling of tales, but a complex layering[31] of clues and double entendres which forced the reader to deduce her intent and draw conclusions.[42] The story, for Blixen was vital to expression, giving a recitation of experience, and simultaneously a potential vision of the possible.[43]

Blixen boarding an SAS flight from at Kastrup Airport, Copenhagen, in 1957

Blixen planned for Anecdotes of Destiny to be a final part of the Last Tales collection in 1953, but as she prepared all the stories, she decided to release Anecdotes as a separate volume, and originally wanted to release both Last Tales and Anecdotes simultaneously. Because of publication issues, it was delayed for another year.[30] The most famous tale from Anecdotes is "Babette's Feast", about a chef who spends her entire 10,000-franc lottery prize to prepare a final, spectacular gourmet meal.[44][45] The story evaluates relationships and examines whether the austere but charitable life led by the sisters, in adherence to an ideal, is less true to faith[46][45] than the passionate gift from the heart of their housekeeper.[47][45] The story was reproduced in a film directed and written by Gabriel Axel in 1987, winning the 1988 Best Foreign Film Oscar.[48][49]

In 1959, Blixen made her only trip to the United States. It was an extended trip spanning from January to April,[50] and while the purpose of her travel was to complete a series of educational films and discussions for the Ford Foundation and Encyclopædia Britannica,[51] Blixon intended to enjoy it.[52] She was the feature of a Life Magazine article in the 19 January 1959 edition[53] and attended two Broadway openings.[54] Feted by the well-to-do of New York society, Blixen was invited to dine with socialites Babe Paley and Gloria Vanderbilt. She was photographed by Richard Avedon and Cecil Beaton; the guest of John Steinbeck, who hosted a cocktail party in her honor; and serenaded by Maria Callas.[55][56] Nobel laureate Pearl Buck and poets e. e. cummings and Marianne Moore came to see her, as well.[57] When Blixen expressed a desire to meet Marilyn Monroe,[58] the author Carson McCullers arranged a meeting with Monroe and her husband playwright, Arthur Miller.[59] Throughout the trip, Blixon played upon her crafted personna as a reclusive aristocrat and an outsider, but also that of an eccentric, who would eat only oysters, grapes and drink champagne.[53][60] It was clear that she was ill, as it was reported that she was "frail" and "weighed 63 pounds"[54] and she spent part of her time receiving "intravenous infusions".[57]

Returning to Denmark, Blixen began working despite severe illness, finishing the African sketches Shadows on the Grass in 1960.[61] The last of her works published during her lifetime, it was awarded her fifth selection as a Book-of-the-Month.[9] A return-to-Africa memoir, Shadows explores the stereotypes and labels of Europeans and Africans, concluding that "prejudices reveal more about the perceiver than the perceived".[43] It consisted of four tales, "Shadows of the Grass" focused on her Somali maidservant Farah; "Faith is Revealed", which relayed the importance of symbolism; "The Great Gesture", which spoke of medical issues in her community; and "Echoes From the Hills" which evaluated her loneliness after leaving Africa and the tireless vigil her staff from Africa kept on her former home for many years.[62]

Illness and death[edit]

Karen Blixen's grave in Rungstedlund, Denmark

When Blixen originally was diagnosed with syphilis, she was treated with mercury tablets. Some reports indicate that she took approximately 1 gram of mercury per day for almost a year,[63] while others show the time was only for a few months.[57] She then spent time in Denmark for treatment and was given arsenic, which she continued to take in drop form as a treatment for the syphilis that she thought was the cause of her continued pain.[64] Blixen had reported severe bouts of abdominal pain as early as 1921, while she was still in Kenya.[57] Several well-known physicians and specialists of both internal medicine and neurology diagnosed her with third stage chronic syphilis.[65] Mogens Fog, who was Blixen's neurologist thought her gastric problems were attributable to syphilis, in spite of the fact that blood and spinal fluid tests were negative.[57][63] By the time she left Africa, Blixen was suffering from anemia, had jaundice and had overused arsenic. As clumps of her hair had begun to fall out, she took to wearing hats and turbans.[66]

Although it was widely believed that syphilis continued to plague Blixen throughout her lifetime,[57][64] extensive tests were unable to reveal evidence of syphilis in her system after 1925.[63] Her writing prowess suggests that she did not suffer from the mental degeneration of late stages of syphilis. She did suffer a mild permanent loss of sensation in her legs that could be attributed to use of the arsenic-based anti-syphilis drug salvarsan.[57] Her gastric pain was often called "tropic dysentery", though no stool analyses were reported in her medical records. Concerned about gaining weight, Blixen took strong laxatives "during her whole adult life", which after years of misuse impacted her digestive system. She also was a heavy smoker, which when combined with her minimal food intake led to her developing a peptic ulcer.[65]

In 1946 and 1955 the neurosurgeon Eduard Busch performed a lumbar sympathectomy on Blixen's spinal cord, but her pain returned. In 1956 when she was diagnosed with the stomach ulcer, Professor Torben Knudtzon performed surgery at Copenhagen University Hospital,[64][65] but by that time, she was in her seventies, and already in poor health. Over the next several years, she continued to suffer from dehydration and a lack of nutrition, which rendered her weak and led to four additional hospitalizations at the Central Hospital in Hillerød.[64] Very late in her treatment, she finally confessed her use of laxatives to her doctors.[65] The source of her abdominal problems remains unknown. A 1995 report published by the Danish physician, Kaare Weismann, concluded that the cause of her chronic pain and ailment was likely heavy metal poisoning.[57] A 2002 report by Søgaard in the Danish Medical History Journal (Danish: Dansk Medicinhistorisk Årbog) attributed her misdiagnosis to a failure to communicate on both the part of Blixen and her doctors. As she didn't tell them about her laxative misuse, and the physicians believed they were fighting syphilis, akin to the AIDS epidemic in their era, each missed the opportunity for effective treatment.[64][65] Both Erik Münster and Weismann also recognized the lapse in communication, as had Blixen been treated with penicillin, which was available by the 1950s, syphilis would have been able to be ruled out.[63][64]

It is also known that Blixen suffered from panic attacks,[66] because she described them in her book Out of Africa.[57] In her analysis of Blixen's medical history, Donelson points out that Blixen wondered if her pain was psychosomatic and states that the during Blixen's lifetime her illnesses were rumored to be fabricated. Her publisher indicated that Blixen's syphilis was a myth in private, but publicly, Blixen blamed syphilis for her chronic health issues. Donelson concluded: "Whatever her belief about her illness, the disease suited the artist's design for creating her own personal legend."[57]

Unable to eat, Blixen died in 1962 at Rungstedlund, her family's estate, at the age of 77, apparently of malnutrition.[67][3] Others attribute her weight loss and eventual death to anorexia nervosa.[68]

Posthumous works[edit]

Among Blixen's posthumously published works are: Ehrengard (1962),[69] Carnival: Entertainments and Posthumous Tales (1977), Daguerreotypes, and Other Essays (1979) and Letters from Africa, 1914–31 (1981).[15] In the late 1960s, Orson Welles planned an anthology of Denesen’s films, in which he intended to release "The Heroine", "The Deluge at Norderney", "A Country Tale", and "Full Moon". After a day of shooting film in Budapest on "The Heroine", the project was canceled because his financier went bankrupt. The Immortal Story was adapted to film in 1968 by Welles and released simultaneously on French television and in theaters.[70][71] Welles later attempted to film The Dreamers, but only a few scenes were ever completed.[72] In 1982, Emidio Greco directed an Italian film, Ehrengard, based upon Blixen's work of the same name, which was not released until 2002 due to financial complications.[73]

Legacy[edit]

Awards and honors[edit]

For her literary accomplishments, Blixen was awarded the Danish Holberg Medal in 1949,[74] the Ingenio et Arti medal in 1950,[75] granted the inaugural Hans Christian Andersen Scholarship of the Danish Writers Association in 1955 and received the Henrik Pontoppidan Memorial Foundation Grant in 1959.[74] Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, described it as "a mistake" that Blixen was not awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature during the 1930s[76] and when Hemingway won the prize in 1954, he stated that Bernard Berenson, Carl Sandberg and Blixen deserved the prize more than he did.[9] Although never awarded the prize, she finished in third place behind Graham Greene in 1961, the year Ivo Andrić was awarded the prize.[77] In 2012, the Nobel records were opened after 50 years and it was revealed that Blixen was among a shortlist of authors considered for the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature, along with John Steinbeck (the eventual winner), Robert Graves, Lawrence Durrell, and Jean Anouilh. Blixen became ineligible after dying in September of that year.[78]

Blixen's former secretary and house manager, Clara Svendsen wrote a book, Notes about Karen Blixen (Danish: Notater om Karen Blixen) in 1974, which told of the transformation of the young woman who moved to Africa into the sophisticated writer. Giving personal anecdotes about Blixen's life, Svendsen focused on the private woman behind her public image.[79] Blixen's great-nephew, Anders Westenholz, an accomplished writer himself, wrote two books about her and her works: Kraftens horn: myte og virkelighed i Karen Blixens liv (1982) (translated into English as The Power of Aries: myth and reality in Karen Blixen's life and republished in 1987) and Den glemte abe: mand og kvinde hos Karen Blixen (1985) (The Forgotten Ape: man and woman in Karen Blixen).[80]

Karen Blixen's portrait was featured on the front of the Danish 50-krone banknote, 1997 series, from 7 May 1999 to 25 August 2005.[81] She also featured on Danish postage stamps that were issued in 1980[82] and 1996.[83] The Asteroid 3318 Blixen was named in her honor on her 100th birthday.[84]

Rungstedlund Museum[edit]

The Karen Blixen Museum in Rungstedlund, Denmark

Blixen lived most of her life at the family estate Rungstedlund, which was acquired by her father in 1879. The property is located in Rungsted, 24 kilometres (15 mi) north of Copenhagen, Denmark's capital.[85] The oldest parts of the estate date to 1680, and it had been operated as both an inn and a farm. Most of Blixen's writing was done in Ewald's Room, named after author Johannes Ewald.[86]

In the 1940s, Blixen contemplated selling the estate due to the costs of running it, but the house became a haven for a group of young intellectuals, including Thorkild Bjørnvig, Frank Jæger, Erling Schroeder, among others, who found the house as intriguing as its occupant. They began using the property as a literary salon,[87] which continued to be used by artists until 1991.[88] Bjørnvig, who edited the journal Heretica also developed a close friendship with Blixen. The house was repaired and restored between 1958 and 1960 with a portion of the estate set aside as a bird sanctuary. After its restoration, the property was deeded to the Danish Literary Academy and became managed by the Rungstedlund Foundation, founded by Blixen and her siblings.[87] It was opened to the public as a museum in 1991.[88] In 2013 The Karen Blixen Museum joined the Nordic museum portal.[83]

Karen Blixen Museum, Nairobi[edit]

When Blixen returned to Denmark in 1931, she sold her property to a developer, Remi Martin, who divided the land into 20 acre parcels.[89] The Nairobi suburb that emerged on the land where Blixen farmed coffee is now named Karen. Blixen herself declared in her later writings that "the residential district of Karen" was "named after me".[90] The family corporation that owned Blixen's farm was incorporated as the "Karen Coffee Company" and the house she lived in was built by the chairman of the board, Aage Westenholz, her uncle.[91][89] Though Westenholz named the coffee company after his own daughter Karen and not Blixen,[5] the developer of the suburb named the district after its famous author/farmer rather than the name of her company.[89][92][93]

Changing hands several times, the original farmhouse occupied by Blixen was purchased by the Danish government and given to the Kenyan government in 1964 as an independence gift. The government established a college of nutrition on the site and then when the film Out of Africa was made in 1985, the college was acquired by the National Museums of Kenya. A year later, the Karen Blixen Museum was opened and features many of Blixen's own furnishings, which had been reacquired from Lady McMillan. McMillan had purchased them when Blixen left Africa. The museum house has been judged a significant cultural landmark, not only for its association with Blixen, but as a cultural representative of Kenya's European settlement, as well as a significant architectural style—the late 19th-century bungalow.[89]

Works[edit]

A considerable proportion of the hundreds of pages in the Karen Blixen archive at the Royal Danish Library consists of the unpublished poems, plays and short stories Karen Dinesen wrote before she married and left for Africa. In her teens and early twenties, she must have spent much of her spare time practising the art of writing. It was only when she was 22 that she decided to publish some of her short stories in literary journals adopting the pen name Osceola.[94]

Some of these works were published posthumously, including tales previously removed from earlier collections and essays she wrote for various occasions.

  • Eneboerne (The Hermits), August 1907, published in Danish in Tilskueren under the pen name Osceola)[95]
  • Pløjeren (The Ploughman), October 1907, published in Danish in Gads danske Magasin, under the name Osceola)[96]
  • Familien de Cats (The de Cats Family), January 1909, published in Danish in Tilskueren under the name Osceola)[96]
  • Sandhedens hævn – En marionetkomedie, May 1926, published in Danish in Tilskueren, under the name of Karen Blixen-Finecke;[97] an English translation by Donald Hannah titled The Revenge of Truth: A Marionette Comedy was published in Performing Arts Journal in 1986[98]
  • Seven Gothic Tales (1934 in USA, 1935 in Denmark)
  • Out of Africa (1937 in Denmark and England, 1938 in USA)
  • Winter's Tales (1942)
  • The Angelic Avengers (1946)
  • Last Tales (1957)
  • Anecdotes of Destiny (1958) (including Babette's Feast)[99]
  • Shadows on the Grass (1960 in England and Denmark, 1961 in USA)
  • Ehrengard (posthumous 1963, USA)
  • Carnival: Entertainments and Posthumous Tales (posthumous 1977, USA)
  • Daguerreotypes and Other Essays (posthumous 1979, USA)
  • On Modern Marriage and Other Observations (posthumous 1986, USA)
  • Letters from Africa, 1914–1931 (posthumous 1981, USA)
  • Karen Blixen in Danmark: Breve 1931–1962 (posthumous 1996, Denmark)
  • Karen Blixen i Afrika. En brevsamling, 1914–31 i IV bind (posthumous 2013, Denmark)

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b Jørgensen & Juhl 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Engberg 2003.
  3. ^ a b c d e Updike 1986, p. 1.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wivel 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Schmidt-Madsen 2012, pp. 18-23.
  6. ^ Winther 2015.
  7. ^ Bjerg 2014.
  8. ^ a b Isaacson 1991, p. 319.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Stambaugh 1998.
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Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]