Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen

British East Africa was a fanciful collision. Colonial farm manors, relaxed and dignified but with a touch of humor (rocking chairs, veranda, tea things, and perhaps a semi-domesticated gazelle wandering around inside) commanded giant tracts of land and attempted to impose a semblance of good order on an unruly continent.  The itinerant inhabitants—Kikuyu farmers, Luhya and Luo, Masai warriors, the poor Wanderobo and a smattering of contemptuously regal Somali—for the most part accepted the colonizers as the act of a garden-variety pagan God:  neither good nor bad, the British were just a fact like any other and not worth worrying about.

The Kikuyu, the largest tribe in what would eventually become Kenya, were the most in contact with the colonial farms, squatting on the land and employed as hands.  Their attitude was fascinating and frustrating to the British, and seemed to represent the intransigence of the land itself, combining a basically good-natured fatalism, childish delight in trivial mishaps, a disdain for any large-scale plans or operations, and a deep commitment to a code of justice which had nothing to do with Western ideas of intent.  (There was no distinction between manslaughter and murder for the Kikuyu;  a death was a death the responsible party had to pay just the same.)

In 1914, Karen Blixen married Hemingway’s second-favorite hunter, Baron Bror von Blixen, and moved out to a six-thousand acre farm to grow coffee.  Her coffee never prospered;  the farmland was too far above sea level to be agreeably fecund.  After a series of droughts, blights and natural disasters (including a genuine plague of grasshoppers) she was finally forced to sell the land in 1931 and return to her native Denmark.  But Africa and the African Native—to her a single, unified, majestic, cosmic concept—remained a great love and preoccupied her for the rest of her life.  She often marveled how her compatriots back in civilization could be so indifferent to the phases of the moon or the importance of a good rain.

She published Out of Africa under the penname Isak Dinesen in 1937 and made her reputation as a writer.  She describes the life and office of a colonial farmer:  doctor to the surrounding countryside (since first-aid turned out to be considerably better than no-aid), judge of important disputes (typically settled by the redistribution of goats or cows), mother, charity-giver, benefactor, comic fool, chauffer, an object of pity rather than sympathy.

The Western attempt to mold the land was a partial success—it introduced medicine, sanitation, roads and light bulbs and other things Africa didn’t necessarily want.  The attempt to mold the African mind was a failure, a handprint in water.  As for Africa’s impress on the Western mind, the success was complete: no European could come back from Africa without being permanently changed.  The coexistence in colonial Africa was something of a miracle of precarious balance and curious humanity.  In contrast with today’s common, officially endorsed view of this important patch of history, you might find a larger and more sensitive rendering in Karen Blixen’s beautiful book.

Prose: 8/10

Narrativity: 6/10

Beauty: 9/10

Overall Goodness Rating (OGR): 8/10

Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen.  Random House, 1937. 389 pages.

229 thoughts on “Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen

  1. Pingback: Approved viagra
  2. Pingback: cialis discount
  3. Pingback: online cialis
  4. Pingback: tadalafil
  5. Pingback: buy ciprofloxacin
  6. Pingback: cialis 5 mg
  7. Pingback: cost of cialis
  8. Pingback: cialis 10mg
  9. Pingback: viagra suppliers
  10. Pingback: buy chloroquine
  11. Pingback: cheap viagra
  12. Pingback: cheap viagra
  13. Pingback: buy ed pills
  14. Pingback: cialis visa
  15. Pingback: Viagra or cialis
  16. Pingback: vardenafil generic
  17. Pingback: levitra 10 mg
  18. Pingback: play casino online
  19. Pingback: cialis pill
  20. Pingback: loans online
  21. Pingback: payday loans
  22. Pingback: online loans
  23. Pingback: viagra cost
  24. Pingback: free slots
  25. Pingback: cialis generic
  26. Pingback: cialis internet
  27. Pingback: buy cialis
  28. Pingback: cialis 5 mg
  29. Pingback: 5 mg cialis
  30. Pingback: free slots
  31. Pingback: hollywood casino
  32. Pingback: viagra viagra
  33. Pingback: viagra pill
  34. Pingback: viagra for men
  35. Pingback: cheap cialis
  36. Pingback: buy viagra cheap
  37. Pingback: tadalafil 10 mg
  38. Pingback: viagra price
  39. Pingback: casino online
  40. Pingback: casinos
  41. Pingback: buy viagra site
  42. Pingback: buy sildenafil
  43. Pingback: cialis dosage
  44. Pingback: generic sildenafil
  45. Pingback: Viagra 150mg usa
  46. Pingback: generic viagra
  47. Pingback: sildenafil
  48. Pingback: goodrx cialis
  49. Pingback: cialis coupon 2020
  50. Pingback: order Cialis 10mg
  51. Pingback: buy generic viagra
  52. Pingback: cheap viagra
  53. Pingback: viagra
  54. Pingback: lasix 100 mg usa
  55. Pingback: canadian pharmacy
  56. Pingback: viagra cheap
  57. Pingback: viagra
  58. Pingback: buy amaryl 4 mg
  59. Pingback: cialis 20mg
  60. Pingback: viagra mississauga
  61. Pingback: buy tadalafil
  62. Pingback: cheap atarax 25 mg
  63. Pingback: buy baclofen 10 mg
  64. Pingback: cialis generic
  65. Pingback: cialis
  66. Pingback: stendra vs viagra
  67. Pingback: cialis ingredients
  68. Pingback: viagra in calgary
  69. Pingback: buy tadalafil
  70. Pingback: order catapres
  71. Pingback: viagra for sale
  72. Pingback: ed vacuum pumps
  73. Pingback: order celexa
  74. Pingback: cipro for sale
  75. Pingback: cialis pills
  76. Pingback: order claritin
  77. Pingback: online casino
  78. Pingback: best casino online
  79. Pingback: casino slots
  80. Pingback: gambling games
  81. Pingback: ED Pills
  82. Pingback: real online casino
  83. Pingback: gambling games
  84. Pingback: slots real money
  85. Pingback: gap insurance
  86. Pingback: cialis
  87. Pingback: aig car insurance
  88. Pingback: cialisorgcom
  89. Pingback: ed medicine
  90. Pingback: buy cialis online
  91. Pingback: quick payday loans
  92. Pingback: sildenafil 50
  93. Pingback: fast payday loans
  94. Pingback: usa quick loans
  95. Pingback: buy cialis
  96. Pingback: sildenafil cost uk
  97. Pingback: on line viagra
  98. Pingback: Brand viagra
  99. Pingback: vk blue viagra
  100. Pingback: buy an essay
  101. Pingback: real viagra price
  102. Pingback: buy essay cheap
  103. Pingback: cleocin prices

Comment