Happy Birthday, Karen Blixen!

Happy Birthday, Karen Blixen!

“The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea.” — Karen Blixen (pseudonym Isak Dineson; April 17, 1885 – September 7, 1962)

Today is the birthday of Baroness Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa, which was adapted into an Academy Award-winning movie starring Meryl Streep.

From Short Story Criticism: Volume 191:

Dinesen is among the best-known Danish authors of the twentieth century. A storyteller for much of her life, Dinesen did not begin writing for publication until she was in her 40s, after a series of major disappointments. The loss of her farm and home, the dissolution of her marriage, and the death of her lover dominated the first half of her life and provided much of the material for her celebrated memoir, Out of Africa (1937). In addition to these personal experiences, Dinesen’s short stories also drew from Romantic and Gothic literary traditions, adapting them into original tales that her first editor, Dorothy Canfield (1934; see Further Reading), called “curious and rare,” and written in a “very new” style. Dinesen wrote most of her stories in English, and with the appearance of her first collection, Seven Gothic Tales (1934), English and American audiences celebrated her as an important new literary voice.

Baroness Karen Blixen-Finecke at Kastrup Airport CPH, Copenhagen 1957-11-02. Public Domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

Dinesen’s short fiction—collected in Seven Gothic Tales, Winter’s Tales (1942), Last Tales (1957), and Anecdotes of Destiny (1958)—frequently addresses concerns with identity and destiny. In her stories, men and women seek to understand and fulfill roles given to them by another, sometimes by a controlling human authority figure, at other times by the hand of God. Although Dinesen has been accused of having an aristocratic, colonial outlook, many readers have found her views of women, especially women as artists, to be both progressive and profoundly insightful.

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