Out of Africa (Vintage Books, V740)

by Isak Dinesen

Paperback, 1972




Vintage (1972)


In this book, the author of Seven Gothic Tales gives a true account of her life on her plantation in Kenya. She tells with classic simplicity of the ways of the country and the natives: of the beauty of the Ngong Hills and coffee trees in blossom: of her guests, from the Prince of Wales to Knudsen, the old charcoal burner, who visited her: of primitive festivals: of big game that were her near neighbors--lions, rhinos, elephants, zebras, buffaloes--and of Lulu, the little gazelle who came to live with her, unbelievably ladylike and beautiful. The Random House colophon made its debut in February 1927 on the cover of a little pamphlet called "Announcement Number One." Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer, the company's founders, had acquired the Modern Library from publishers Boni and Liveright two years earlier. One day, their friend the illustrator Rockwell Kent stopped by their office. Cerf later recalled, "Rockwell was sitting at my desk facing Donald, and we were talking about doing a few books on the side, when suddenly I got an inspiration and said, 'I've got the name for our publishing house. We just said we were go-ing to publish a few books on the side at random. Let's call it Random House.' Donald liked the idea, and Rockwell Kent said, 'That's a great name. I'll draw your trademark.' So, sitting at my desk, he took a piece of paper and in five minutes drew Random House, which has been our colophon ever since." Throughout the years, the mission of Random House has remained consistent: to publish books of the highest quality, at random. We are proud to continue this tradition today. This edition is set from the first American edition of 1937 and commemorates the seventy-fifth anniversary of Random House.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member maykasahara
This is a marvellous book, but not for the fast-living, easy to be distracted consumption reader who is simply in it for superficial kicks or obvious references to the well-known movie (including a heroic love story). The beauty, for a large part, lies in the patient descriptions of Africa and
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depth of the reflections. Or, as the writer herself could have said it: being able to observe the raw realities of life, and understand its laws or conditions, one must not be naïve or arrogant, but know the full extent of it, and accept it even if it isn’t liked. And ‘knowing the full extend’, is here a tour de force that is both intimidating and hopeful.
What you get is an account of a long lost era, a world that is no more, having been swept away by the tides of time, capitalist modes of living and trends towards global uniformity. A whole era of ideas and lifestyles, both indigenous and western, that was already disappearing in the years that Karen Blixen lived on her African farm, is now completely gone, but somehow survives on the pages of this book. And while Blixen herself is conscious of this change, regrets the destruction, and is unable to resist moods of melancholy all the time, she doesn’t fall in the trap of easy sentimentality. On the contrary, she is a sharp observer and a true positivist, who combines the social eye of the anthropologist and the efficient, beautiful writing of the novelist.
For the modern reader who has become used to the simplistic, self-centred rhetoric of commentators, politicians, and experts, it is refreshing to read about colonialist procedures, the confrontation between cultures, religious strive, where in the analysis there is still room for subtlety, amazement, understanding, and acceptance of difference. For example, one is likely to learn more about the peculiar complexity of moslim gender roles in Africa by reading Karen Blixen’s portrayal of Somali women than one would from the prejudiced and angry stereotyping that comes with contemporary ‘pamphleteers’ such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
But what makes the book outstanding, beyond its many and accurate social commentaries, is the emotion that drives it. The story is inhabited by a song, a dance of characters –one of it is nature, the landscape – and each and every one of them finds a place in the heart of the reader. When at last Karen Blixen has to leave her farm and Africa, one has the feeling that the loss is not just hers, but of everyone – European and African – who for a time lived on that farm near the Ngong Hills.
Because the story ends badly, the end of the book is heartbreaking. But Karen Blixen is too good a writer to pass up the opportunity for creating one lasting image. When being forced to accept the depressing state of her affairs, with the implication of an inevitable departure back to Denmark, she is able to turn this unwanted destiny into something more deep and reassuring: “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.”

All this reader can think of is that without such a pitiful withdrawal, perhaps this beautiful book would never have seen the light.
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LibraryThing member japaul22
Meh. This is a perfect example of a book that just wasn't what I wanted it to be. I knew that the book did not get personal as the movie does and that Denison's interesting love life was not part of this book, but I didn't expect that all of the author's personality would be stripped from this
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"memoir". Instead, this is Denison's musings on Africa. As such, I suppose it is interesting as a capsule of European views of Africa at the time, but I didn't like the tone that the Africans were described in (very belittling) or all the hunting and killing of the wildlife so that the Europeans could have their farms and livestock. It just put a bad taste in my mouth.

I will admit that some of the writing is beautiful and it is interesting from a historical perspective, but, overall, I was just bored and sort of annoyed. I would have just set this aside after the first chapter but I wanted to complete it since it's on the 1001 books to read before you die list.
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LibraryThing member fiverivers
I first came to know of Baroness Karen Blixen through the film, Out of Africa. The story presented in the film is one that has long endeared itself to me. It wasn't until later I discovered the actual book upon which the film was based, and recently had the pleasure of purchasing the book digitally
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for my Kobo reader.

It has been a remarkable journey reading Out of Africa. The film takes great latitude with Karen Blixen's autobiographical account of her farming days in Africa. The autobiography itself is fascinating. Through her writing Blixen reveals her deep love of Kenya, of the people, and of the wildlife within it. Revealing and heartbreaking, her story unfolds in an honest, yearning narrative about her experiences, her dismay at the changing social and ecological landscape, and her deep regret when, broke, she must return to Denmark. There are moments when her optimism and naivete betray her writing, and other moments when she writes with considerable restraint given the sociological and financial burdens she carried.

I daresay Out of Africa the book will remain, for me, every bit as memorable as Out of Africa the film. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member Kristelh
Out of Africa is more a meditation or anthropology of Africa than an autobiography. It is a memoir of Danish author Karen Blixen. Karen Blixen ran a coffee farm in Kenya for 17 years in what was British East Africa. Blixen brings to life the people important in her life. She married her second
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cousin the Swedish Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke, who is barely mentioned in the book. Nor is her divorce mentioned. After the divorce, Karen continued on the farm. The farm was never very good, it wasn't in the best place to be a successful coffee farm. Karen tried other things to make the farm successful but nothing was successful. She made it through WWI and returned to Denmark after and bedore the next war. I loved Karen Blixen's independence and willingness to work hard and her respect for the people and animals of Africa. Out of Africa is divided into five sections and is not necessarily linear. The first two focus primarily on Africans who lived or had business on the farm, and include close observations of native ideas about justice and punishment in the wake of a gruesome accidental shooting. The third section, called “Visitors to the Farm,” describes some of the local characters who considered Blixen’s farm to be a safe haven. The fourth, “From an Immigrant’s Notebook,” is a collection of short sub-chapters in which Blixen reflects on the life of a white African colonist. The he fifth and final section, “Farewell to the Farm,” the book begins to take on a more linear shape, as Blixen details the farm’s financial failure, and the untimely deaths of several of her closest friends in Kenya. The book ends with the farm sold, and with Blixen on the Uganda Railway, heading toward the steamer on the coast, looking back and watching her beloved Ngong Hills disappear behind her. The first part is fun and such a wonderful look at Africa (the anthropological section). I learned a lot about Somali African and I appreciated that having quite a few Somali in my home area. The final parts are reflections of the author's losses and love of Africa. This was the time of colonialism and many could fault the author for being a colonist but her love of Africa and friendship with the people and land tells me she was not a typical colonist. In her writing, the reader can picture the natural beauty and animal life being destroyed by the modernization that Europeans brought with them and Karen grieved this loss as well as her own loss. Themes include the difference between Africa and European justice and there are two trials that she details in the book. But Blixen does understand – and thoughtfully delineates – the differences between the culture of the Kikuyu who work her farm and who raise and trade their own sheep and cattle, and that of the Maasai, a volatile warrior culture of nomadic cattle-drovers who live on a designated tribal reservation south of the farm’s property. Blixen also describes in some detail the lives of the Somali Muslims who emigrated south from Somaliland to work in Kenya, and a few members of the substantial Indian merchant minority which played a large role in the colony’s early development. I felt her writing was free of prejudice and judgement. She was admired and loved by many Africans who continued contact with her even after she left the farm.

Karen Blixen according to the book, 1001 Books You Must Read, only narrowly missed the Nobel Prize for Literature. It calls this a novel about the death of imperialism in Africa and hailed as the greatest pastoral elegy of modernism. It is a book about Africa and the language is beautiful.

Rating 3.83
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LibraryThing member stevesbookstuff
Karen Blixen (or more formally Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke) published in English under the pen name Isak Dinesen. Born Karen Dinesen in Denmark in 1885, she and Baron Blor Blixen-Finecke relocated to British East Africa (to what is today the country of Kenya) and were married in Mombasa in
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With the backing of their families they bought land and started a coffee plantation. The marriage was not successful (he was a philanderer and gave her syphilis), and they separated in 1921. She became romantically involved with Denys Finch-Hatton after her divorce. Karen remained on the farm until grasshoppers, drought and the Depression forced her to sell. She returned alone to Denmark in 1931 where she spent the rest of her life.

Out of Africa is often referred to as Dinesen’s memoir of her time in Kenya. But while the setting is her farm in Kenya, the focus of the book is often not on her. Her husband is mentioned in passing only once or twice (the divorce not at all), and Finch-Hatton is discussed as a friend, who, unfortunately, meets his demise in a plane crash shortly before Dinesen leaves Africa.

There are mentions of a few other white folks, but the focus is primarily on the native Africans Dinesen encounters in her life on the farm. The book is a series of stories of happenings set mostly in and around the farm. It’s a vast landholding (6,000 acres) set high along the Ngong Hills near Nairobi.

The whole country was part of a British protectorate. Within the country the British had established Reserves, to which they relocated the native inhabitants. The Masai Reserve abuts her land. Some of her workers are Somali, and come from the “Somali town” that “was further away from Nairobi”. On the farm a village of Kikuyu people live, and are referred to as “squatters”, who must provide labor to the farm in exchange for the right to live there. They are not landowners themselves. Natives are forbidden to own land under the laws of the Protectorate.

Within this colonial setting the stories of Out of Africa take place, and are relayed to us through the eyes of Dinesen. She is very insightful and sensitive to the customs and culture of those around her whose stories she tells. It’s clear that she has great regard, even love, for the native peoples. But her understanding of their motivations is that of a white colonist, and that does come through and colors the stories in the book.

Dinesen is an effective writer. She is mostly straightforward in style in her storytelling, but she can get quite lyrical when describing the countryside or the wildlife. As the stories unfold (and they do so at a fairly languid pace) you get a clear picture of what life must have been like one hundred years ago on her coffee plantation in Kenya. It is such a different world, that, as I was reading the book I sometimes felt like I was reading a set of fantasy tales rather than a memoir. But a very well written and lovely set of fantasy tales.

If it’s not clear from what I’ve said so far, I will caution future readers that if you go into the book expecting to find the love story from the 1980s film of the same name you will be disappointed. The movie is based in part on this book, but also on Dinesen’s Shadows on the Grass and other sources.

All told, I liked the book and would recommend it. But it doesn’t feel right to me to put Star ratings on classics like this one, so a simple recommendation will have to suffice.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
Out of Africa is the memoir of a Dutch woman's seventeen years on her coffee plantation in Kenya from 1914 to 1931. I had never read Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) before--and I haven't seen the film based on this book--but I could immediately tell I was in the hands of a poet. Her description of
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Africa is very lyrical--the book is studded with prose poems to nature, describing with lush imagery the skies, the trees (it did not grow in bows or cupolas, but in horizontal layers...gave to the solitary trees a likeness to...full-rigged ships) or elephant herds in the forest (...in a giant size, the border of a very old, infinitely precious Persian carpet, in the dyes of green, yellow and black-brown). Indeed, the prose is so gorgeous, that given her anecdotal structure and love of 1001 Nights, I'd say this is one magical carpet ride. So many passages are quotable and unforgettable.

I felt more mixed on her depictions of the "Natives." She had some keen observations of customs and behaviors, but she made my inner PC squirm a bit, and continually wonder what the Kikuyu, Somali and Masai would have had to say about her interpretations. Every once in a while, some of the oppressiveness of the colonial system comes through in her tales, as when some of her workers are jailed for performing traditional dances, or her cook flees because his former employer threatens to have him conscripted if he doesn't come back, or a young boy is flogged to death for a minor infraction and the colonist gets off lightly. Dinesen does speak of how the natives were robbed of their lands, and how they can't even legally buy land under the colonial system. I didn't get much of a sense of outrage from Dinesen, but she comes across as far from callous. In fact I think a lot of mutual respect and love between her and the people around her comes through. Remember, this was published in 1937. It was a very different time and Dinesen sees things from a very different lens than we would in post-colonial times. I don't think you can just dismiss her as racist; it's more complicated than that. To enjoy the book, you have to see her view of things as all part of the ride.

I think what I found most wanting though, in what is supposed to be a memoir, is any sense of her inner self beyond her response to Africa. A brief note about Dinesen heading the text hinted at a very interesting life. She had a troubled marriage, an intense love affair with Denys Finch-Hatton, that's pretty much absent from the memoir. Her husband is barely mentioned. The book's brief biographical note says he infected her with syphilis. Ibsen's Ghosts, which deals with that subject, is actually mentioned in the memoir, but Dinesen never alluded to the connection. And while Finch-Hatton is featured in two of the chapters, "Wings" and "A Grave in the Hills" she never hints they were lovers. The book probably should be subtitled "notes about a Kenyan coffee plantation" because what she relates felt very fragmentary, not pulled together into a unified story, and strangely impersonal. I don't think that's a flaw per se, but very much part of her design. But it left me frustrated at times, leaving me wishing I could read some commentator or companion book that would let me know all about what Dinesen leaves obscured.
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LibraryThing member madepercy
I was surprised to discover that the book is nothing at all like the move starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Written in English (Blixen was multi-lingual), there is no real hint of the marriage to Baron Bror Fredrik von Blixen-Fineck and their separation in 1920-21 and subsequent divorce in
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1925. Nor is there anything more than a subtle hint of the affection for Denys George Finch Hatton (as portrayed by Robert Redford in the movie). And who could have known that Blixen suffered from syphilis, courtesy of her philandering husband. This is an interesting work and reads in part like a diary. Various scholars consider the style and arrangement of the book into certain themes and chronological devices, but this didn't strike me as anything special. It was Blixen's obvious feeling and emotion and love for life in British East Africa (Kenya) that drives the stories. One cannot help but be sad when she leaves the farm. One can only imagine, too, what it would be like to live in that timeless place. Having said that, the attitude toward the original inhabitants of Kenya reads like any other historically-inspired work of the 1930s, with frequent literary comparisons - as opposed to overtly racist vilification - of some of the characters to monkeys and other animals of the area. Indeed, it is hard to escape the imperialist attitudes of the times and how, given the people had lived on the land for generations, Colonialism suddenly relegates them to the status of squatters (six months of labour in exchange for living on and utilising the uncultivated land of the white farmers). There is much of the admiration for "the noble savage" that permeates the work, despite Blixen's obvious love for Africa. More interesting are the stories of Blixen herself - partly captured in the movie - and that she was nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature several times, losing out to John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. Blixen was quite the character, and her other works might be worth investigating. But it is difficult to identify with her in her Colonial context. Blixen was quite the character, and her other works might be worth investigating. But it is difficult to identify with her in her Colonial context. To be sure, the work captures the place and times, but living in the post-Colonial era, one can only wonder at the past.
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LibraryThing member lit_chick
Out of Africa is Isak Dinesen’s memoir of her years in Africa (1914-31) where she lived on a coffee farm near Kenya. The novel, well written and full of rich description, takes the form of short reminiscences of Dinesen’s African life. She writes longingly of the land, the climate, the people
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and their principles and customs, and the animals. The novel, I think, is much more than a memoir and much more than a story about Africa. It is a story for Africa.

"I will not let thee go except thou bless me." (283)
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LibraryThing member Miguelnunonave
Politically-incorrect for today's world - still, a beautifully painted account of African landscapes and people. Having been to Kenya myself, I could relate to some of the author's experiences, from a European perspective.
LibraryThing member jmoncton
This is a beautiful memoir about Dinesen's life on a coffee plantation in Africa. I read this while on a trip to Tanzania and just loved it. She has some amazing stories about her life that are beautifully written and clearly show a love of not only the majesty of the country but the people. I
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disagree with some people's reviews that her writing shows a superiority over the African people. The book is clearly dated, but demonstrate her love of the Kenyans in her life and a genuine respect for their traditions and culture. Underlying in many of her stories is the tension between the West - trying to change and remake the country into a European outpost and the dying traditions of a society struggling to survive.
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LibraryThing member alana_leigh
For ages, this had been on my list of "books I should've read by now" list, citing that many friends had studied this in school and I felt left out of the party. So I convinced the girls in my book club (all of whom had also missed out on this particular bandwagon) that we should correct this
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lapse... and... well... I'm glad we did? Ultimately, not many people were all that pleased with Out of Africa, myself included, but it does, at least, provide a detailed glimpse at a bygone world. The reason for its presence on so many school reading lists, however, has got to be the whole "written by a woman" and "about Africa" qualifications, because the paternalistic racism and selective honesty on the part of the author is not exactly something that schools should be promoting to students who aren't old enough to recognize this.

Karen Blixen published Out of Africa under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen in 1937 (Dinesen was her maiden name, though I have yet to figure out where the Isak came from). The events in the book take place over seventeen years -- from her arrival in Africa (to marry her second cousin, the Swedish Baron Bror Von Blixen-Finecke) in 1913 to her departure following the failure of her coffee plantation in 1931. If you finish reading Out of Africa and then read the Wikipedia blurb on Karen Blixen's life, you'll get a little angry. Why? Well, to start with, the Wikipedia blurb shows that Blixen actually had an interesting life, she just chose not to write about any of those bits. (Syphilis! Engaged to her second-cousin after failing to win his brother! Unfaithful husband! Divorce and retaining control of the plantation! Affair with Denys Finch-Hatton! Creating a personal legend of her own life!) In any case, it's a bit frustrating to read a "memoir" when very little of that comes into play. She focuses entirely on her relationship with Africa... so you'd think you might get a little of the husband or the lover, but no -- she barely mentions her husband at all and Denys is simply depicted as a friend.

The book doesn't follow much linear style, except in the fifth and final part where the coffee plantation fails and so Blixen sells it off and leaves Africa. Instead, it's comprised of a number of anecdotes about her life, the farm, and the people and animals on it. With just the hint of the title, the reader knows that everything cannot end well and that the author will be leaving Africa, but that might not be enough to hint at the elegiac tone which suffuses the entire work. It's melancholy and full of longing, with beautiful descriptions of the landscape and atmosphere. Blixen is writing about an Africa that no longer exists, a colonialist occupation on its last legs that is still struggling for elegance and grandeur in a land where grandeur is not high on the priority list (and, thankfully, not high on Blixen's). The Natives that populate the country aren't slaves and Blixen is quite kind to them, but the amount of condescension that radiates from her work is a bit mind-boggling. There are many ways to justify this and soften the blow, but the racism is inescapable. Clearly, Blixen wouldn't call herself a racist and she repeatedly calls many Natives her "friends," but that really isn't the relationship that's described Given the time period and the environment, it's not terribly surprising and her attitude might even have been seen as a bit progressive in comparison to others, but it's still there. It's the idea of looking upon the Natives as lesser creatures who need to be educated, adjusted, and changed. She might have some form of nostalgia for their way of life (and even tries to help it struggle on at times), but her perspective is the vision of someone who knows it will not last and it's probably for their own good that it not. Entire groups of people are lumped together in her descriptions of their temperament and outlook as she tries to explain to a European (or Western) audience exactly what these people are like and it's the rare individual that is singled out for any defining characteristics. There were animals that were described with greater detail than any human individuals. In general, her European focus on work, schedule, and order causes her to paint the Natives as lazy and ignorant, with the occasional admission some of them are clever and that the general populace might have something going for them that the average European has lost. There are a few instances where the activities of the Natives versus those of the Europeans are drawn into stark contrast -- particularly as it concerns justice, penance, and, apparently, logic. There's even the occasional time that she sides with the Native's perspective (though more often than not, she presents it to the reader as an oddity to puzzle or chuckle over). It isn't that she believes them incapable of learning how to do things... but again, here comes the paternalistic attitude. At one point, she even suggests that they might never develop the same attitude towards technology (her examples of this are airplanes and automobiles, for perspective) because they themselves never developed these things. They went from zero to sixty and as a result will never feel the way that others do whose civilizations developed these wonders. The issue I have here is not that they will have different ideas, but that her focus is on how they will never develop a specific attitude, as though there's only one good viewpoint here to which one can aspire. It's all so unfortunate, as Blixen clearly loves the land and the people, but I fear that her love is grounded in a system that could not endure, and therefore is easy to embrace for those who relish a tragic and doomed love.

Given the fact that the book is comprised of incidents and jumps around a bit, I found this terribly easy to set down after reading a few pages and rather hard to pick up again. Perhaps, too, I might have been more inclined to read things if I felt that Blixen weren't deliberately leaving out elements of her daily life. The complete absence of her husband is a gaping hole and while it does lend her the image of doing everything on her own, she doesn't go into enough detail about her own life to justify the responsibility. One also feels that Blixen's narrative is set up so she can pick and choose stories based on what she wishes to convey about this lost time and place... and there's the distinct sense that she isn't always being entirely honest. I don't even necessarily mean her real relationship with Denys Finch-Hatton (because if one wishes to conceal a relationship, that's one's own business)... but the way her narrative gravitated towards him and his death would allow even a child in school to believe that all Blixen's cards weren't on the table. Whether it was that some things were too painful to dwell on or that they didn't fit into her particular image of her time there, it's enough to drive one to Wikipedia to fill in the gaps.

I wouldn't like to give the impression that my entire experience with Out of Africa was totally negative. Her writing style is quite interesting (though Danish, Blixen wrote in English) and I'm not sure if it's the fact that English isn't her native language which gives everything a detached, matter-of-fact tone to it, or if she's adopting it to seem like a more justified observer of human nature. When I looked up discussion questions for the book, many focused on the idea of finding one's self, but no one in my book club actually thought the book was terribly concerned about Blixen "finding" herself. Yes, she was changed by her experiences in Africa, but without seeing any trajectory of self, it was hard to tell just how changed she ultimately had been. It is, however, really quite fascinating to read the account of this time period, if only because there's always some strange nostalgia for bygone days that feature this twisted mix of disparate wealth and social classes. I wouldn't necessarily say that Blixen was whole-heartedly in favor of colonialism, but given the choice between the way things were and the way things became, she'd have preserved the system just as it was. There's never really a thought to whether the Natives would be better off without the Europeans' interference. Everything about the work seems to be looking back without any desire to look forward, which is really quite a shame.

So I am pleased that I slogged my way through and I do recognize that Africa meant something special to Karen Blixen, but I'm afraid I wouldn't be endorsing this for school reading and discussion unless the kids are old enough to understand that these opinions about Native peoples aren't quite ideal. Some of the prose is lovely indeed and once in a while, Blixen succeeded in making me long for to sit on a veranda, surrounded by African scenery, but it was really only the landscape that inspired longing... and perhaps the wish that the Europeans hadn't been quite so hasty to claim the world as their own and displace the original inhabitants for their selfish gain. Better a memoir of the time be preserved than the system it discusses, and at least it's an account to remind us of the many mistakes in our world's history. If you're reading this to discuss with others, it could be quite worth it, but I'll not recommend that anyone trudge through this on their own. I feel a bit terrible for saying so when the book in question is often called a classic, but so it goes.
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LibraryThing member jlizzy
This is a book one can open at any page and relish the rich and inspiring words.
LibraryThing member susanbevans
"I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills... It was Africa distilled up through six thousand feet, like the strong and refined essence of a continent... In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be."
- from Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa

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Dinesen's Out of Africa was not exactly what I expected. I went into reading it thinking that it was a traditional memoir, but it is actually a series of lyrical vignettes describing the life of Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen in Africa. Written sometime after she left Africa, the stories contained in Out of Africa reflect the distance Dinesen was able to put between herself and much of the hardship she suffered as a first-time coffee farmer in Kenya.

Among my favorite of her stories were the accounts of "Kamanate and Lulu." In the four stories included in this first part of Out of Africa, Dinesen describes her efforts to cure a young native boy who has a debilitating illness, and to adopt an orphaned bushbuck fawn, probably destined for someone's dinner table.

From the beginning, it is clear that Dinesen has a sense of humility where the native Africans were concerned, that is practically unheard of in other white colonists of her time. Her strong feelings for the native people and the harsh beauty of the land surrounding her farm is obvious to the reader. As she struggles to better understand the Kikuyu, Masai and Somali people, she comes to the realization that despite being dependent on them, she will never truly "know" them. This notwithstanding, she never stops admiring them, and learns a great deal from them in her time.

Isak Dinesen wrote beautifully of her love for Africa and it's people. Her stories are delicate and enthralling, and sweep you up in the words and imagery they contain. The language she uses is luminous, and her descriptions of the people and animals of East Africa are simply magical. Out of Africa is exquisitely written and will keep you turning pages late into the night.
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LibraryThing member isabelx
"I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong hills."

A most unexpected book. I bought it in January 1999 and I'm regretting the fact that it took over four years for me to get round to reading it. I was expecting a standard autobiography, of the colonial memoir variety, whereas it isn't
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actually an autobiography at all. There is no ongoing narrative no attempt at putting it in chronological order, except in the final section "Farewell to the Farm". It's page 228 before she mentions her husband at all and even then only in passing; the reader doesn't find out anything about him and she never mentions the fact that they got a divorce. It's more of a 'Pillow Book', a selection of the sights and happenings that caught her fancy enough to be written down. It is her poetic descriptions of the sights and sounds of Africa, that really draw you into this book. You feel her involvement with and love of the land, people and animals of her farm and the reserve bordering it, and her sorrow that she eventually had to sell up her farm and go into exile.

"Out on the safaris, I had seen a herd of buffalo, one hundred and twenty-nine of them, come out of the morning mist under a copper sky, one by one, as if the dark and massive, iron-like animals with the mighty horizontally swung horns were not approaching, but were being created before my eyes and sent out as they were finished."
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LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Out of Africa (1937) is a book that has changed lives. The heady romanticism on the frontier of colonial Kenya is enough to make anyone want to pack up and head for Africa - and many have tried, in reality by going, and by deep immersion in biographical study of the Kenyan colonialists that form
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the fabric of this book. The 1980's movie just re-enforced the legend and further spurred the Blixen fan club. It's a beautiful book told with grace and insight that captures the dieing spirit of colonialism in the middle 20th century between the wars.

Sadly for me the book is marred by a certain moroseness, an emphasis on death and dieing. Every chapter and incident seems to be focused on someone or something - tribe, culture, way of life - that is dead or dieing. Her coldness comes through in the end when she (almost) shoots her pets and animals. And we learn she later in life committed suicide. All this cast a pale of darkness over the beautiful atmosphere she describes to render it a deeply sad and ultimately tragic story. Yet the power of it is real, and for that it is and will remain a classic.
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LibraryThing member JVioland
British East Africa in the early 20th century on a coffee plantation owned by a woman. Mesmerizing. You feel Africa during the colonial period. Far better than the Academy Award winner film.
LibraryThing member reannon
Read this for my book club. I have a vague memory of seeing the movie years ago, but don't remember much about it. I think it was the love story of Dinesen and Denys Finch-Hatton, so that was what I was expecting the book to be.

Dinesen ran a coffee farm in Africa, a few miles away fron Nairobi. The
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book is almost entirely about Dinesen's relationships with the Natives she lived with. It is a little frustrating to read, because she has something of the colonial attitude of superiority, but not enough for her to not see the Africans as individuals and appreciating them in many ways. It is, however, a picture of the dealings of people with very different cultures and habits of mind. And in many ways I agree that Western culture is better, but not in all ways, and certainly colonialism had its extremely dark side. Dineson mentions casually that the African's weren't allowed to own land!

Dinesen's descriptions of Africa are lyrical, and one feels how much of a tragedy it was in her life for the farm to fail and for her to be forced to leave Africa. She does talk about Finch-Hatton and his untimely death.

An impressive work i was glad to read.
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LibraryThing member jwhenderson
Out of Africa is Karen Blixen's memoir about her years in Africa, writing as Isak Dinesen. She recounts the world of Africa, specifically Kenya. It is, like the England of her friend Denys Finch-Hatton, "a world that no longer existed" even then and certainly as she left it. The memoir is a slow
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read, yet a book with prose in which you can luxuriate, or languish perhaps as it seems to mirror the mammoth African landscape. Reading like a pastoral novel, the narrator interested me with her myriad experiences. It presents people, cultures, landscape, and wildlife through her eyes, sometimes noble, sometimes paternal. The culture of the various tribes and religions with whom she had contact on her coffee farm became almost real, so that as I read certain moments became funny or sad or wistful. The reader comes to view animals differently, the fecundity of life struck me particularly. The different forces at work are both natural and foreign; the paradoxical nature of the presence of two churches (Roman Catholic and Church of Scotland); they are sometimes presented as working for good yet other times in conflict with each other. The memoir is truly literate and the importance of books and writing is evident throughout. Early in the memoir she tries to explain her writing a book to a native, while near the end of her stay as she is selling off the furniture and other estate provisions there is a poignant moment when, as she sits on her remaining books, she comments:
Books in a colony play a different part in your existence from what they do in Europe; there is a whole side of your life which they alone take charge of ... you feel more grateful to them, or more indignant with them, than you will ever do in civilized countries.
Blixen's memoir of this "uncivilised" land is both memorable and effective in sweeping the reader away into a very different world. Definitely a worthwhile read.
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LibraryThing member kvanuska
There are few such brilliant examples of a story that melts landscape and lives together in perfect poetic balance than Out of Africa. Its opening pages, with Dinesen's quiet voice inviting us into a vast, ancient landscape are especially wonderful. If you've only seen the movie, you're really
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missing out on a soul-fulfilling masterpiece.
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LibraryThing member Bruce_Deming
great audio book which I thought was more rich than the movie.

This was released under another label 1982 that went under and was among the first audiobooks made that I knew of commercially.

Also the first audiobook experience for me and Julie Harris narration I thought quite good.
LibraryThing member BBcummings
What makes this book stand out from all the other memoirs of colonial Africa is that this book focuses on how the author's life in Africa contributed to her own personal development, i.e.how she grew in character from the life-lessons that Africa taught her. Before that experience, she was a member
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of a spoiled aristocracy, unproductive, unchallenged, and with little in the way of meaningful values. After her tribulations and heartaches, joys and fulfillment, and her warm and genuine relationships with Kenyans, she left there a person who had undergone a profound spiritual growth. For me, this was the aspect that I related to.
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LibraryThing member JayDugger
I really enjoyed this book, and love it for its beautiful prose.
LibraryThing member abbeyhar
i guess i can't really review this because I only got a quarter of the way through, but this book was mega boring.
LibraryThing member abbeyhar
i guess i can't really review this because I only got a quarter of the way through, but this book was mega boring.
LibraryThing member mykl-s
One of the great adventure novels, written by a great storyteller.


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