Blixen, Karen

   A Danish short story writer and sometime novelist, Blixen is a major writer in both Danish and English; among speakers of English she is known as Isak Dinesen. Her first success came in the English-speaking world, but later she was recognized in Denmark as well and became a veritable cultural institution there. As a writer, Blixen reacted against the psychological and social realism of contemporary Danish literature and looked back to the romantic storytellers for inspiration. Her main theme is art and its role in human life, and her value system is that of a bygone era.
   After living on a coffee farm in Kenya for a number of years, Blixen returned to Denmark after the farm failed. In her early youth she had published some tales under a pseudonym, and she had written more of them while in Africa; these tales found their way into her first book, which was published in English as Seven Gothic Tales (1934), and then in Danish as Syv fantastiske Fortællinger (1935). These stories are marked by a number of fantastic features, such as the shape shifting in the story "Aben" ("The Monkey"). The prioress of a home for older unmarried women owns a monkey that originally came from Zanzibar, and at times the "soul" of the monkey and that of the woman trade bodies; the prioress goes out in the form of a monkey, and vice versa. Art also plays an important role, as in "Syndfloden over Norderney" ("The Deluge of Norderney"), in which the actor Kasparsen has murdered Cardinal Hamilcar von Sehested in order that he may impersonate him, thus playing the role of his life.
   Blixen's second book was a narrative based on her experiences on the coffee farm, Den afrikanske Farm (1937; tr. Out of Africa, 1937). It is both a book about a lost paradise and a memorial to Blixen's lover Denys Finch-Hatton, who had died when his private plane crashed shortly before Blixen's return to Denmark. Blixen's portrait of life in Africa is seductive, but she no doubt romanticized her experiences somewhat. Skygger paa Græsset (1960; tr. Shadows on the Grass, 1960) is a less engaging continuation of the story of her time in Africa.
   Vinter-Eventyr (1942; tr. Winter's Tales, 1942) is the undisputed high point in Blixen's oeuvre. Several ofits stories are central to understanding her work. "Den unge Mand med Nelliken" ("The Young Man with the Carnation"), which introduces the English-language edition, is a powerful expression ofBlixen's theory ofart. Its protagonist, Charlie Despard, discovers that he is not in control of his destiny as a writer, but that God has chosen him for this vocation and will give him just the right amount of pain to spur his creativity on. Blixen is thus in agreement with her countryman Søren Kierkegaard that art and pain are closely linked. "Skibsdrengens Fortælling" ("The Sailor-Boy's Tale") teaches not only that people living in northern Norway may have special powers, but that the eternal principle of justice cannot be violated. "Heloise" ("The Heroine") shows that salvation may come through the actions of an exotic dancer just as well as from any other source.
   The two volumes Sidste Fortællinger (1957; tr. Last Tales, 1957) and Skæbne-Anekdoter (1958; tr. Anecdotes of Destiny, 1958) contain such tales as "Det ubeskrevne Blad" ("The Blank Page"), which radically questions the origin and locus of meaning, and "Babettes Gæstebud" ("Babette's Feast"), which has been turned into an award-winning motion picture. "Babettes Gæstebud" is also a hymn to art, which is shown to have the atoning power generally associated with religion.
   Blixen also wrote a novel occasioned by World War II, Gengældelsens veje (1944; tr. The Angelic Avengers, 1946), under the pseudonym Pierre Andrézel. Essays and letters from her time in Africa were published posthumously, as were Efterladte Fortællinger (1975; tr. Carnival: Entertainments and Posthumous Tales, 1977).

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • BLIXEN (K.) — BLIXEN KAREN, dite ISAK DINESEN (1885 1962) Une conviction résolument antimoderniste anime toute l’œuvre de la baronne Karen Blixen Finecke, née au sein d’une des plus anciennes familles aristocratiques du Danemark, celle des Dinesen: c’est,… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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  • Karen Blixen — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Dinesen. Karen Blixen …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Karen Blixen — Karen Blixen, eigentlich Karen Christence von Blixen Finecke, geborene Dinesen, (* 17. April 1885 in Rungstedlund bei Kopenhagen; † 7. September 1962 ebenda) war eine dänische Schriftstellerin und 17 Jahre lang eine Kaffeefarmerin in Kenia. Ihr… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Karen, Kenya — Karen is a suburb of Nairobi in Kenya, lying south west of the city centre.It is generally believed that the suburb is named after Karen Blixen, the Danish author of the colonial memoir Out of Africa ; her farm occupied the land where the suburb… …   Wikipedia

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