Karen Blixen & Out of Africa

When the movie of Out of Africa screened in the 1980s I, like so many others, fell in love with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep and the fabulous scenery of Africa. The film showed flocks of pink flamingos rising into the air, magnificent maned lions prowling across the grasslands, giraffe (“gentle amblers of the great plains”) loping along with easy elegance, and spectacular flights over the hills.

I find Out of Africa a beautiful book, written with such skill in English by a woman for whom English was not a first language, written with insight and sadness. It is an elegy for a way of life now gone, a statement of mourning for a landscape that entered her very soul and moved her deeply. Karen Blixen was never really ‘out’ of Africa again. This book is a testament to its power and her longings.

“I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the north, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up; near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold.” – Karen Blixen, Out of Africa

I had not read the book when I watched the film, so rushed out to get a copy. Soon I fell in love with Blixen’s lyrical prose. How can you not love an author who writes: The Natives “were quick to understand that meaning in poetry is of no consequence, and they did not question the thesis of the verse, but waited eagerly for the rhyme, and laughed at it when it came … As they had become used to the idea of poetry, they begged: ‘Speak again. Speak like rain.’ Why they should feel verse to be like rain I do not know. It must have been, however, an expression of applause, since in Africa rain is always longed for and welcomed.” How much of the character of the Kenyans, and also of herself, she captures in that passage!

I find Out of Africa a beautiful book, written with such skill in English by a woman for whom English was not a first language, written with insight and sadness. It is an elegy for a way of life now gone, a statement of mourning for a landscape that entered her very soul and moved her deeply. Karen Blixen was never really ‘out’ of Africa again. This book is a testament to its power and her longings.

Is this book a memoir, a novel, a travel book, an historical account of a way of life that has vanished, or a mixture of all of these things? My reader’s guide will help you learn more about Karen Blixen’s life and her writing, the themes, styles and characters in the book.

Truman Capote declared this book to be “one of the most beautiful books of the 20thC”. Do you agree? Did you think the film version did the book justice? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below. I always love to hear what you think.

Here are some convenient links for Karen Blixen & Out Of Africa.

   Out of Africa & Shadows on the Grass by Isak Dinesen / Karen Blixen
   Out of Africa & Shadows on the Grass by Isak Dinesen / Karen Blixen, narrated by Susan Lyons
   Out Of Africa by Isak Dinesen / Karen Blixen, 1986 Sydney Pollack MOVIE ADAPTATION – high definition rental on YouTube movies

  Susannah Fullerton: Writers On The Money
  Susannah Fullerton: Literary Travels

  Karen Blixen Museum, Rungsted
  Karen Blixen Museum, Kenya

   Meryl Streep – Out of Africa Interview (1997)

   Isak Dinesen: The Life of Karen Blixen by Judith Thurman
   Anecdotes of Destiny by Isak Dinesen / Karen Blixen
   West with the Night by Beryl Markham

I only recommend books I have read or know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.

I always love to hear what you think.

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