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Karen Blixen Books In Order

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From the Ngong Hills (As: Isak Dinesen) (1996)Description / Buy at Amazon

Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke born Karen Christenze Dinesen but widely known as Karen Blixen. She was a Danish writer and author sometimes known by the name Isak Denisen. She was a versatile writer with literary works in English, French and Danish. Her books “Out of Africa”, which details her personal experiences living in Kenya, “Babette’s Feast” and “Seven Gothic Tales” are some of her most notable works.

Karen Blixen was born on 17th April 1885 in Rungstedlund, Denmark which was north of Copenhagen. She studied art in Copenhagen Rome and Paris – by 1905, she was already publishing fictional content. In 1913, still known as Karen Dinesen, she was engaged to marry her second cousin, Swedish Blixen-Finecke. In 1914 the two moved to Kenya, known as “British East Africa” at the time, where they established a coffee farm using family money. Despite finding the freedom she described could only be found in dreams, Dinesen and her husband had marital issues mainly because of their differences in temperament and education. Bror Blixen was also unfaithful and at some point infected Dinesen with syphilis. Even though Dinesen was cured of the syphilis, major health issues were persistent throughout her life from that point. The couple later separated in 1921 and finally got divorced in 1925. Later on, after the separation, Dinesen deeloped a close friendship with a big game hunter called Denys Finch Hatton, whom she had met during her earlier years in Kenya. Later it became a long-term romantic relationship. Unfortunately, tragedy struck as Finch died in a plane crash in 1931. This coupled with the economic depression around that time which run down the coffee farm caused Dinesen to move back to her home country where she spent her life writing and publishing books until her death.

As an author, Karen Blixen started establishing her reputation firmly in 1934 when she published her first book in the US “Seven Gothic Tales”. It got great critical acclaim and when she published her second book 1937 “Out of Africa”, the success was inevitable. It cemented her reputation and arguably is her best work. With the British and Danish readers clearly recognizing her works, Tagea Brandt Rejselegat was awarded to her in 1939 which is an award given to women for their academic life was given to her. In the wake of World War II, she begun work on a full length novel, “The Angelic Avengers”. The heroines in the book witness horrors which have been interpreted as a symbol of Nazism, the book was published in 1944. Karen Blixen’s works in the 1940’s and 1950’s mainly kept to a storytelling format such as the famous “Babette’s Feast” which is based on a professional chef who splurges her entire lottery prize of 10,000 franc to prepare one last spectacular gourmet meal. Orson Welles, who admired Karen Blixen’s work adopted “The Immortal Story” (1968) and later tried to do the same for “The Dreamer” though he managed to complete just a few scenes.

Karen Blixen published her tale collections followed by Seven Gothic tales which included; Winter’s Tales (1942), Destiny (1958) and others. By this time Karen Blixen was riddled with great illnesses but despite the severe illness, she completed the African sketches in 1960. After her passing on 7th September 1962 some of Karen Blixen’s work was posthumously published. Examples include; Carnivals (1979), Letters from Africa (1981) among others. Most of her storytelling type works are set in the 1800’s or earlier times. Karen Blixen mentioned severally in interviews that she intended to express and portray a spirit that was non existent and to her this was courage and destiny, “The Cardinal’s First” directly expresses Karen Blixen’s concept of art, those of Romanticism. “Out of Africa” was later adopted for a film in 1985 Meryl Streep played Karen and Robert Redford portrayed her hunter lover Denys.

Karen Blixen wrote in English despite the fact that she was Danish. She later translated to Danish. Critics describe her use of language a unusually beautiful in fact, Dorothy Canfield described one of the works, “The Angelic Avengers”, being of superlatively and of fine literary quality. She further stated that it was written with distinction and in an elegant style. Karen Blixen’s later books were published simultaneously in Danish and English. Being an author Karen Blixen maintained a charismatic, mysterious public image combined with her insightful third eye. She was able to establish herself as an model figure to the Danish culture and people, she however, shunned the mainstream.

Blixen was greately admired and respected by several contemporary writers such as Truman Capote and Ernest Hemingway. Through her 1959 visit in the US she met writers Pearl Buck, Arthur Miller and E. E. Cummings. She also met famous actress Marilyn Monroe. Babe Paley dedicated a lunch in honour of her at St. Regis having guests Cecil Beaton and Truman. Gloria Vanderbilt offered her a dress made by Mainbocher which Karen Blixen took. Richard Avedon the photographer took a famous picture of his showing her during her New York stay. Karen Blixen was acclaimed by Pauline de Rothschild and Cecil Beaton. Karen Blixen was accorded Ingenio et Arti award of the danishin 1950. The Nobel records, in 2012 were opened and it was disclosed that Karen Blixen was amid a shortlist comprising authors evaluated for the Nobel Award (Literature) John Steinbeck won the prize. Karen Blixen was deemed ineligible after her death that year although many have the opinion that she should have won the first time.

Though it was believed that Karen Blixen was not cured of syphilis the first time, several evidences suggest that there was no syphilis after 1925 in her body after she went to Denmark for treatment. Karen Blixen did not undergo mental degradation as is the case for sufferers. Her work was as impeccable as ever even in her later years. It is known that she suffered loss of sensitivity in her legs which was most likely due to heavy arsenic used her days in Kenya. At age 77, Karen Blixen died due to malnutrition as she was unable to eat since part of her stomach being removed. She created a legacy for herself in both professional and social circles in part for her great writing and her intriguing life. An entire suburb in Nairobi is named after her and there are museums named after her both in Kenya and Denmark.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Karen Blixen

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