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Out of Africa ()

Modern Library Top 100 Non-Fiction Books of the 20th Century (58)

    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.
        -Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa

Why is it do you suppose, that these should be among the most moving and recognizable opening lines in all of literature?  I used to think that they lingered in memory just because of the creepy way that Meryl Streep recites them in the movie.  But even contemporaneous reviews often mentioned their haunting quality.  I think that ultimately it must be because the book is so specifically about a unique time and place and that this introduction serves to place us there so completely.  That after all is what makes the book special, the way that it captures, in minute detail, the brief moment of Colonial splendor in Kenya and turns it into something out of a fairy tale.

Of course, we now know that Isak Dinesen's version of this colony is in fact more mythical than factual--that she was actually Karen Blixen, that in reality the husband who is virtually nonexistent in these pages gave her venereal disease, that Hatton-Finch was not just a buddy but a lover and that the natives, for all her seeming love and respect for them, probably would not appreciate the way she continually compares them to animals.  And it is because we know all these things that a book which  when it was written seemed merely elegiac now seems truly deluded.  But despite all that we've learned in the intervening years, it remains, on it's own terms,  a beautiful and heartrending book.  I actually prefer Beryl Markham's similar but superior African memoir West With the Night (1941) (read Orrin's review, Grade: A+), but this one's well worth reading too.


Grade: (B+)


Book-related and General Links:
    -Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen (kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA: Your search: "isak dinesen"
    -Karen Blizen Museum (Rungstedlund, Denmark)
    -Karen Blixen Museum (National Museums of Kenya)
    -Rungstedlund Foundation (Garden & Bird Sanctuary)
    -Karen Blixen - Isak Dinesen Information Site
    -Karen Blixen Literary Society Online
    -BABETTE'S FEAST (essays, links, etc.)
    -1938:  OUT OF AFRICA  by Isak Dinesan (Book of the Month Club)
    -Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen (Post-Colonial Studies at Emory)
    -Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) (WebQuest Projects English 243: Introduction to the Short Story)
    -REVIEW: of ON MODERN MARRIAGE And Other Observations. By Isak Dinesen. Translated by Anne Born (Susan Gubar, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW:  Jane Kramer: The Eighth Gothic Tale, NY Review of Books
        Out of Africa a film by Sydney Pollack and screenplay by Kurt Luedtke
        Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass by Isak Dinesen
        Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen
        Winter's Tales by Isak Dinesen
        The Angelic Avengers by Isak Dinesen
        Last Tales by Isak Dinesen
        Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard by Isak Dinesen
        Letters from Africa: 1914-1931 by Isak Dinesen
        Daguerrotypes and Other Essays by Isak Dinesen and foreword by Hannah Arendt
        Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller by Judith Thurman
        West with the Night by Beryl Markham
        The Pact: My Friendship with Isak Dinesen by Thorkild Bjornvig
        The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley
        On the Edge of the Rift: Memories of Kenya by Elspeth Huxley
        White Mischief by James Fox
        Silence Will Speak: A Study of the Life of Denys Finch Hatton  by Errol Trzebinski
        The Kenya Pioneers by Errol Trzebinski
        Longing for Darkness: Kamante's Tales from Out of Africa collected by Peter Beard
    -REVIEW: of ISAK DINESEN The Life of a Storyteller. By Judith Thurman (Margaret Drabble, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of ISAK DINESEN: The Life of a Storyteller, by Judith Thurman (Anatole Broyard, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: Rosemary Dinnage: Gothic Sibyl, NY Review of Books
        Silence Will Speak: A Study of the Life of Denys Finch Hatton and His Relationship with Karen Blixen by Errol Trzebinski
        Isak Dinesen's Art: The Gayety of Vision by Robert Langbaum
        The Angelic Avengers by Isak Dinesen
        Carnival: Entertainments and Posthumous Tales by Isak Dinesen
    -REVIEW: Jean Stafford: Lioness, NY Review of Books
        Titania: The Biography of Isak Dinesen by Parmenia Migel
    -REVIEW: Neal Ascherson: Taping Friday, NY Review of Books
        Longing for Darkness: Kamante's Tales From Out of Africa collected by Peter Beard
    -REVIEW: of Out of Isak Dinesen in Africa: Karen Blixen's Untold Story by Linda Donelson (Linda Richards, January Magazine)
    -ESSAY: Culture, Cultivation, and Colonialism in Out of Africa and Beyond  (Simon Lewis, Research in African Literatures 31.1 )
    -ESSAY: The top 10 travel books of the century: The Modern Library's nonfiction list egregiously ignores travel literature. We redress the oversight. (DON GEORGE, Salon)

    -INFO: Out of Africa (1985)(Internet Movie DataBase)
    -BUY IT: DVD (Amazon)
    -BUY IT: VHS (Amazon)

    -Sites on Women Writers

If you liked Out of Africa, try:
Boyd, William
    -An Ice-Cream War

Bartle, Bull
    -The White Rhino Hotel (1992)

Fox, James
    -White Mischief : The Murder of Lord Erroll

Markham, Beryl (1902-1986)
    -West With the Night (1941) (read Orrin's review, Grade: A+)

Watkins, Paul
    -In the Blue Light of African Dreams

Wood, Barbara
    -Green City in the Sun