By Nava Atlas | On | Comments (2)
Isak Dinesen (April 17, 1885 – September 7, 1962) was a Danish author best known for Out of Africa (1937), a now-controversial memoir of her life as the owner of a coffee plantation in colonial Kenya of the 1920s. She’s also considered a master of short-form fiction. One of her best known collections is Seven Gothic Tales, and a standout short story (turned film) is “Babette’s Feast” (1958).
Though admired as a master storyteller, contemporary reconsiderations of her work shed light on the inherent racism in her portrayals of the Africans she lived amongst during the colonial period. This issue will be discussed later in this brief biography. A complex personality, Dinesen’s place in modern literature continues to be debated.
Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke, born Karen Christenze Dinesen, was born into a family of aristocrats, merchants, and landed gentry. Her father was a peripatetic traveler, military man, politician, and writer who committed suicide when Karen was just nine or ten years old. Her mother was left to raise their five children alone.
Karen showed an early interest in writing, creating stories, plays, and poetry. Her stories, which she began to write down at age eight, helped allay some of the unhappiness of her childhood, and were also read for the amusement of her sisters.