Notable Aesthete: Isak Dinesen
at the foot
Today is the birthday of the incomparable Isak Dinesen. Wife of the boorish and syphilitic Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke and lover of the mercurial adventurer and big game hunter, Denys Finch Hatton; Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke (April 17, 1885 – September 7, 1962), née Dinesen, was a Danish author also known by her pen name Isak Dinesen. Blixen wrote works both in Danish and in English; but is best known for Out of Africa, her account of living in Kenya, [TEA NOTE: a book as magical and luminous as the African moon over her farm] and for her story, Babette’s Feast, both of which were adapted into highly acclaimed motion pictures. Dinesen’s short story writing was influenced by the stories of the Arabian nights, Aesop’s Fables, the works of Homer, and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, her fellow countryman.
Her memoirs of pioneering a coffee farm in Africa, where she had an affinity for all that was natural, brought her worldwide recognition as an authoress. Dinesen felt the native people—the Somali and the Masai tribes of Eastern Africa—with their rich tradition of oral storytelling, had an ear for her romantic and “old fashioned” style of writing.
She particularly loved to tell stories with rhyme because it was something novel to their culture. Blixen described them saying about her storytelling, “…’Please, Memsahib, talk like rain,’ so then I knew they had liked it, for rain was very precious to us there.”