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Karen Blixen (Karen Christentze Blixen), née Dinesen Biography

(1885–1962), (Karen Christentze Blixen), née Dinesen, Seven Gothic Tales, Winter's Tales, Last Tales

Danish writer, born in Rungsted, Denmark; she studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. Her works in English were written mainly under the name Isak Dinesen. In 1914 she married her cousin, Baron Blor-Blixen Finecke, and together they set up a coffee plantation in Kenya. The marriage was dissolved in 1921, but she stayed on in Kenya until 1931, and then returned to live in her Danish family estate, Rungstedlung. It was in Kenya that she wrote her most famous work, Seven Gothic Tales (1934); the great artistry of these stories belies her claim that ‘I began to write there to amuse myself in the rainy season’. Focusing on extreme mental states and often grotesque characters, the tales quarry a mine of supernatural lore. Other collections of stories, which appear also in Danish versions, include Winter's Tales (1942), Last Tales (1957), Anecdotes of Destiny (1958), and Ehrengard (1963). Her great love of East African wildlife and landscape, together with nostalgia for colonial life, are reflected in her highly popular memoir, Out of Africa (1937), later made into an award-winning film. She returned to similar themes in Shadows on the Grass (1961). The posthumous Letters from Africa: 1914–1931 (1981; edited by Frans Lasson; translated from the Danish by Ann Born) paints a less idealized picture of life on the coffee farm. Her critical writings are collected in Essays (1965) and Daguerreotypes and Other Essays (1979). See Judith Thurman, Isak Dinesen: The Life of Karen Blixen (1982).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Bible in English to [Thomas] Edward Bond Biography