Isak Dinesen: Out of AfricaShadows on the Grass

This was a beautiful book I began reading it three ears ago and set it aside in favor of lighter literature but I resumed it this winter and found that the rich unhurried prose soothed my spirits and carried me away Reminiscent of Richard Llewllyn s How Green Was My Valley OOA is a work of love a sensitive soul s lyrical tribute to a beloved landscape The passages are often long and I found I needed stamina than I m used to in order to keep up with Dinesen s meandering s of mind and memory but almost each trek took me to a sudden summit or unveiled an unexpected emotional vista approachable through no better route I d say the book was sad but that the sorrow was the cleansing kind nothing bitter or belittling There were mica bits of shimmering humor that reminded me of James Herriot They often cropped up as Dinesen talked about the miscommunications between herself and her servant s or suatters Loved it Between the river in the mellow English landscape and the African mountain ridge ran the path of this life The bowstring was released on the bridge at Eton the arrow described its orbit and hit the obelisk in the Ngong Hills Karen Blixen Out of Africa This is a group read I participated in and I am certain that I will not be able to do it enough honor with my review in attempting to convey this rich lyrical and beautiful memoir of Karen Blixen s Pleasure and Pain years she spent running a coffee plantation in British East Africa in 1914 I will try to insert a few of my favorite passages to giveou a glimpse of its essenceThis to me was so beautifully written it does not read as a non fiction book Karen Blixen had a gift of understanding life Her intrinsic ways with the land the people and its animals her kindness and strength simply shine through in so many passages of this book As a worldly woman of its time she was born in 1885 she started writing down her thoughts and memories after her return back to her home country in Denmark at the age of 49 These were also adapted into film starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in 1986 winning the Academy award for best picture of the The Mountain and the Valley year which I will watch next This book may not be for everyone though I find it a journey to appreciate The descriptions of the land and the people she encountered in Africa are vibrant and easy to imagine asou read Up in this air Zero Option (Geordie Sharp, you breathed easily drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart In the highlandsou woke up in the morning and thought Here I am where I ought to be Karen Blixen Out of AfricaHer love for this place shines through and through When Rescued (The Missing, you have caught the rhythm of Africaou find out that it is the same in all her music Karen Blixen Out of AfricaShe had gained the trust and understanding of the different tribes around her It took a long time and communicating partly with hands and feet to get there The lack of prejudice in the Natives is a striking thing for Summary you expect to find dark taboos in the primitive people It is due I believe to their acuaintance with a variety of races and tribes and to the lively human intercourse that was brought upon East Africa first by the old traders of ivory and slaves and in our days by the settlers and big game hunters Karen Blixen Out of Africa Technology was rarely used in these parts of the world I have never seen an old Native who for things which moved by themselves without apparent interference by man or by the forces of Nature expressed anything but distrust and a certain feeling of shame Karen Blixen Out of AfricaWild animals were all around her No domestic animal can be as still as a wild animal The civilized people have lost the aptitude of stillness and must take lessons in silence from the wild before they are accepted by it Karen Blixen Out of Africa As in civilized countries all people have a chronic bad conscience towards the slums and feel uncomfortable when they think of them so in Africaou have got a bad conscience and feel a pang when The Janitor (The Contenders, you think of the oxen But towards the oxen on the farm I felt as I suppose a king will be feeling towards his slums You are I and I amou Karen Blixen Out of AfricaHerself she had several dogs horses and cows And in this book she actually spends a lot of different parts talking about all the different wildlife of Africa Here a passage of Giraffes she described that were on a ship as they were shipped to Hamburg Germany to a zoo You can tell her dislike of the use of animals in that way The Giraffes turned their delicate heads from the one side to the other as if they were surprised which they might well be They had not seen the Sea before They could only just have room to stand in the narrow case The world had suddenly shrunk changed and closed around them They could not know or imagine the degradation to which they were sailing For they were proud and innocent creatures gentle amblers of the Great Plains they had not the least knowledge of captivity cold stench smoke and mange nor of the terrible boredom in a worked in which nothing is ever happening Karen Blixen Out of AfricaThe natives often wondered when she took a plane up high if she actually saw God When Night Without Stars you have flown over the Rift Valley and the volcanoes of Suswa and Longonotou have traveled far and have been to the lands on the other side of the moon You may at other times fly low enough to see the animals on the plains and to feel towards them as God did when he had just created them and before he commissioned Adam to give them names Karen Blixen Out of AfricaIn other parts she spent time explaining about the vegetation and the drought Some weeks were sweltering hot and at some point there was an infestation of insects But the ancient mango trees have a dense dark green foliage and give benignant shade they create a circular pool of black coolness underneath them More than any other tree that I know of they suggest a place to meet in a center for human intercourse they are as sociable as the village wells Big markets are held under the mango trees and the ground round their trunks is covered with hen coops and piled up with watermelons Karen Blixen Out of AfricaI do feel that Blixen understood and valued the native s ways and customs Every tribe had different rules and ways of living or dying And many friends come and go in her life on the farm Some friendships formed long lasting bonds and mutual understanding and respect Some were of a shorter wile but none were given any or less time in her writing I felt there was euality and sense of mutualism as all worked together and had their place As an outsider Blixen was very open minded and respectful well educated strong and sensitive to the matters of her suatters on the land The pleasure of the true dreamer does not lie in the substance of the dream but in this that there things happen without any interference from his side and altogether outside his control Great landscapes create themselves long splendid views bright and delicate colors roads houses which he has never seen or heard of Karen Blixen Out of AfricaTowards the end of the book Lamore tra i polli you get a sense of her sadness about having to leave Africa It was not I who was going away I did not have it in my power to leave Africa but it was the country that was slowly and gravely withdrawing from me like the sea in ebb tide The procession that as passing here it was in reality my strong pulpyoung dancers of The Indispensable Faulkner yesterday and the day beforeesterday who were withering before my eyes who were passing away forever They were going in their own style gently in a dance the people were with me and I with the people well content Karen Blixen Out of AfricaAlthough I have included a few uotations from the book it is simply not enough to tell everything in between There is much that happened and many details about the people the land and the animals and their stories I simply can only supply a glimpse I felt very content reading this book It found me at the right time Pack Up the Moon you could say My edition has the Shadows on the Grass essays in the back which she wrote 25ears later I believe and I may read them as well There wasn t really an end or a summarized closure to Out of Africa so maybe this will have that feel to it retrospectively I am rating this 5 stars since I felt that I was able to get to know a person so well through the writing without her ever much saying anything about herself at all It was like a window into her world of thoughts and so well done it will certainly stay with me for a while Again not for everyone but I enjoyed it I cried four times while reading this book For the beauty of the writing fireflies the sentiment the zoo animals lulu and for grat. Out of Africa tells the story of a farm that the narrator once had in Africa The farm is located at the foot of the Ngong hills.

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Itude that this woman existed and wrote these words down It s my favorite type of writing descriptive and evocative She is able to make me feel like I am there with her I think she noticed and felt so much that she had to be a writer I also admire her and how she lived her life This was a strong woman who seemed to keep a sense of innocence that allowed her to feel and see the gentle beauty in everything and everyone that is around us always I start with the famous paragraph If I know a song of Africa of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers does Africa know a song of me Will the air over the plain uiver with a color that I have had on or the children invent a game in which my name is or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for meI almost gasped when I read this the first time I certainly drew a slow breath in and re read it a few times Most of the book s paragraphs are almost as beautifully finished and as musical as that The graceful thing DinesenBlixen does is to write about the difficult mundane matters she faced as if the very farm and its people made the decisions for her You see what a ueen of a small country would have worried over and what would have amused and angered her as well Her Danish background gave her the framework to write this as fables in the daily epic of life in Africa and also allowed her to write friends and staff as archetypes and as heroes That means we are not reading a completely factual account of her time in Africa but the sensory story that we do have is tender and illustrative than any day by day account would or could ever be I also re read this often People who dream when they sleep at night know of a special kind of happiness which the world of the day knows not a placid ecstasy and ease of heart that are like honey on the tongue They also know that the real glory of dreams lies in their atmosphere of unlimited freedomThe thing which in the waking world comes nearest to a dream is night in a big town where nobody knows one or the African night There too is infinite freedom it is there that things go on destinies are made round Dog Love - An Unbreakable Bond you there is activity to all sides and it is none ofour concernThat s what this is a dream written about a moment long gone but still beautiful Out of Africa was first published in 1937 after the author s return to Denmark Shadows on the Grass consists of four essays The first three were written in the 1950s and the last titled Echoes from the Hills was written in the 60s They just add a few details about events and characters mentioned in the original bookThe movie Out of Africa starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep was produced and directed by Sydney Pollack It was based not only on Blixen s Out of Africa but also Judith Thurman s Isak Dinesen The Life of a Storyteller Errol Trzebinski s Silence Will Speak and Blixen s Letters from Africa 1914 1931 The movie and Out of Africa Shadows on the Grass are uite different The movie is best classified as a couple s love story The book if it is to be classified as a love story is of a love between a woman and a land Africa specifically the Kenyan highlands and the Ngong Hills southwest of Nairobi where she had her coffee farm She moved here in 1914 after marriage to her Swedish second cousin Baron Bror von Blixen Finecke She remained almost eighteen Henry and June years running the farm alone after she and her husband were divorced in 1925 Much of he Karen Blixen alias Isak Dinesen 1885 1962 has the ability to transportou to the early 20th century Africa The Africa when there were still herds of zebras and elephants suddenly appearing in the clearing while Dry Skull Dreams you are planting or harvesting acres and acres of coffee As I was leafing the pages of this book I was doing the inhale exhale that my wife normally tells me to do whenever we are spending a weekend in a resort far from the polluted Manila Inhale exhale Chance to put fresh air intoour lungs says she to me and my daughter There go the three chests heaving and puffing air as if our lungs have the power to inhale and store oxygen molecules and only exhale them out when we go back to the cityVery powerful novel Imagine uprooting a brilliant Danish writer and asking her to stay for around 20 ears in an enchanted land of Kenya in Africa Blixen and her second cousin Bhor von Blixen Finecke are in love so they go to Africa build themselves a house by the side of Ngong Hills few kilometers from Nairobi Then they buy and till acres and acres of coffee plantation This book is partly memoir true to life partly biography although not narrated chronologically and partly fiction Dinesen made it glamorous compared to what really happened according to Wiki entries Thus it defies being neatly placed into a genre The end result however is astonishing that Truman Capote once said Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen is one of the most beautiful books of the twentieth century Have ou seen the 1981 movie starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford The one that took home many Oscar awards including Best Picture Yes I have It is beautiful isn t it But as always the book is better than the movie True that some of the beautiful beautiful passages of the books were spoken by the characters but nothing can compare to reading actual prose straight from the pen of Isak Dinesen Her words are magical and The Gate of Heaven you can almost feel the leaves of the coffee shrubs feel the rays of the sun penetratingour skin smell the wonderful grassy breeze coming from the hills This book has that uniue ability to make Tutoring Lady Jane you feel see touch smell and even taste its setting It is really almost like an out of body experienceWonderful There is something strangely determinate and fatal about a single shot in the night It is as if someone had cried a message toou in one word and would not repeat it I stood for some time wondering what it had meant Nobody could aim at anything at this hour and to scare away something a person would fire two shots or There is some truly beautiful writing in this book When describing the land and the wildlife of Africa Dinesen ie Karen Blixen truly shines as a writer and I can only believe that it is this aspect of her book that resonates with so many who rate this book Out of Africa highly I mean the film of the same title is not really based on and has little to do with this book so clearly readers must see something else in the book that appeals to them and I m guessing it is the lyrical description of the African landscape If the book contained itself to her impressions of the land I would have loved this book too Unfortunately no amount of lyrical prose was able to outweigh the aspects of the book that really drove me nuts none so than the way author writes about the people of Kenya and by doing so what we learn about the author herself After reading only a couple of chapter I was utterly conflicted whether the author s constant racism was a result of her genuine believe that white Europeans were supreme to the primitive natives or whether her offensive descriptions of the Natives was a result of some sort of mistake in articulating what she really meantSeeing the she continued to generalise about African people and compare them to animals throughout the book it leaves little argument against the assumption that Dinesen really believed in the superiority of the white Immigrants So the next uestion that occurred and as one fellow reader pointed out also is how much of the casual racism was a result of the time that Dinesen lived in Well seeing that she lived in Africa between 1915 and 1931 Out of Africa was published in 1937 it is of course to be expected that her views are reflecting the s of a less enlightened time which is somewhat ironic as she fills the book with literary and philosophical references in an attempt to show off her worldliness and pretends to present herself as an enlightened witty and intellectual woman This in particular made me want to smack her with a copy Markham s West with the Night Markham may have had her shortcomings but she did not need to fuel her self confidence by patronising anyone least her African neighbours As much as Dinesen s racism may have been a reflection of her time it became clear when reading the first story in Shadows on the Grass that Dinesen s believe of superiority must have been ingrained in her deeply than just as an expression of a sentiment that was popular within her social circles Shadows on the Grass was published in 1960 So at that time Dinese. Outside of Nairobi in what is now Kenya It sits at an altitude of six thousand feet The farm grows coffee although only part

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N had not only returned to Europe but had also widely travelled was at home in the artistic and literary circles of Europe and the US and as any enlightened intellectual of the time would have been exposed to current affairs of the world such as the beginning of the civil rights movement in the US the demise of the colonial systems as a result of the moral issues raised with supremacist theories after WWII etc Yet the first story in Shadows on the Grass contains the same racist bullshit as Out of Africa including the following The dark nations of Africa strikingly precocious as oung children seemed to come to a standstill in their mental growth at different ages The Kikuyu Kawirondo and Wakamba the people who worked for me at the farm in early childhood were far ahead of the white children of the same age but they stopped uite suddenly at a stage corresponding to that of a European child of nine She even goes on to say that she found some pseudo scientific theory to support her musings on the ualities of different races Of course this only takes up one paragraph in the book and she does not present any arguments that may contradict her opinions How is this supportable by the justification that she was a writer of her time Had she been of her time I would have expected her to move on but no What the book also told me about Dinesen is that she had appreciation and compassion for animals than for human beings She was against killing animals for sport except lions lions were fair game apparently which was uite unusual for a member of the society she lived in and also considering that the love of her life Denys Finch Hatton organised safaris for wealthy big game hunters And et when confronted with the victim of a shooting accident a child who had been shot accidentally all she can say is the following When American Poetry you are brought suddenly within the presence of such disaster there seems to be but one advice it is the remedy of the shooting field and the farmyard thatou should kill uickly and at any cost And Every Good Girl yetou know that A Sixpenny Christmas you cannot kill andour brain turns with fear I put my hands to the child s head and pressed it in my despair and as if I had really killed him he at the same moment stopped screaming and sat erect with his arms hanging down as if he was made of wood So now I know what it feels like to heal by imposition So her first instinct is to shoot the child The second insight she gains is that she deludes herself into thinking she could heal by laying on hands Actually there is about her delusional exploits as a medic when deciding to become the primary medical care giver to the Natives on her farm Granted any first aid may have been better than none but at no time does she pretend to want to find out if what she s doing is of any medical help and it looks like failures didn t make her stop to think either I knew very little of doctoring just what Last of the Few you learn at a first aid course But my renown as a doctor had been spread by a few chance lucky cures and had not been decreased the catastrophic mistakes that I had made So again while some of the writing is great I just cannot muster any sympathy or liking for the author who to me came across as an ignorant utterly delusional racist ever pretending to be something she was not SoWell introductionI was doing a repair to the ceiling when from that elevated position I noticed this slim volume attempting to hide from my hawk like vision but too late for I swooped down and caught in in my talons and read it tucked up in my nest I found it beguiling lyrical full of longing it also reminded me of the Orwell story Shooting An Elephant I let the book settle over several nights in an attempt to digest it but perhaps after six months or so it might have worked its way through my system now I am not even certain any uite what it was precisely that so ensorcelled me aside from that it reminded me in addition to Orwell also of Sancho Panza view spoiler which occurred to her too writing of her relationship with her Somali servant and Majordomo Farah she says he and I became a true unity as picturesue I believe as that of Don uixote and Sancho Panza fortunately there is no escape from the vision of Cervantes hide spoiler An interesting collection of anecdotes from Africa in the early 1900s It is better than a history book becauseou get to learn about it from the words of someone who lived it The colonialism approach of the time that is seen in the writing can be construed as imperialistic and at times racially inappropriate However I would say that the author is writing what she knows at the time and never gets malicious to or speaks down about anyone in her story even if there are undertones that might be considered inappropriate today In fact I think she does a pretty good job of giving us a glimpse into native life in Africa only one generation removed from no outside influenceAnother thing I did not really see in the book is any hatred between religions or judgement of people because of who they are People of different religions races and social standing all seem to respect each other and give each other a wide berth when necessary ie the Christians come to mourn a person then they leave to allow that person s Muslim friends come in to mourn in their way I did not sense any animosity throughout the story Many of the main characters are Somalis and I kept thinking about all the conflicts there over the past 50 My Darling, My Hamburger years or so none of that is seen here I would have to look into the background of this story a bit to see when she wrote this but I am wondering if some of her inspiration with World Wars raging was to show an Africa before all of that and all the changes it was heading towardsThis is a must read for history and memoir buffs A Danish noblewoman comes to Africa gets married to a Swedish Baron her second cousin and starts a coffee plantation close to the Ngong Hills in the Kenyan Colony southwest of Nairobi then just a small town before the start of WWI Isak Dinesen nee Karen Blixen finds real love and tragedy while managing it 1913 1931 The unfaithful husband Baron Bror Blixen neglects the Baroness and not interested in the farm he enjoys the company of other women At an elevation above 6000 feetou can imagine the difficulties a great place for coffee beans are at lower levels she will discover to her immense regret These memoirs by the upper class woman of her African experiences tells mostly the truth the interesting stories with hidden secrets after all this was published in 1937 and reputations needed to be protected discretion ruled the age Denys Finch Hatton a British aristocrat Oxford educated oozing charm became her inevitable lover she adoringly writes about but keeps the relationship unstated but Love Virtually you can read between the lines He a big game hunter flyer the adventurer a lost soul escaping the restrictions of England for the freedom of a new untamed land still never comfortable in or anywhere else As the second son of a British Earlwell that says it all the restless man will always be that Numerous native servants some suatters the foreign lady has problems dealing with strangely she s very popular treating them kindly an amateur doctoring their illnesses unusual for thoseears abandoned by her husband she alone must prevail Still a Somali worker her main servant Farah Aden indispensable helps in her endeavors in the vast wilderness lions roam and roar nearby constant danger to humans and their animals which are many Disasters come regularly and the intervals much too short the intermission ends and the calamities begin again The variety of African wildlife seen and heard amazes insects also appear millions of ravenous locust swarm and darken the skies no place like this on Earth especially in the 1920 s a sad memory of the past I will report the beginning of the book starts slow and picks up greatly in the second half when the author reveals about the local society with the complicated relationships between the various races inhabiting the area the rulers and the ruled A fine narrative for the patient reader if Our Island Guide you like the colorful setting as the fortuitous couple fly into the clouds high over the incredible country just happy to be together and the rather obvious mournful conclusion A companion piece written almost a uarter century after Out of Africa Shadows on the Grass 1960 gives further details of Africa and what became of the legion of people there she the author met and loved some thrived others the oppositeIfou want information the short book is indispensable and I would recommend this to anyone otherwise an unneeded rea. F its six thousand acres is used for agriculture The remaining parts of the land are forest and space for the natives to live

Karen BlixenBaroness Karen von Blixen Finecke Danish kʰɑːɑn ˈb̥leɡ̊sn̩; 17 April 1885 – 7 September 1962 born Karen Christentze Dinesen was a Danish author also known by the pen name Isak Dinesen who wrote works in Danish French and English She also at times used the pen names Tania Blixen Osceola and Pierre AndrézelBlixen is best known for Out of Africa an account of her life while living in Kenya and for one of her stories Babette's Feast both of which have been adapted into Academy Award winning motion pictures She is also noted for her Seven Gothic Tales particularly in Denmark