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Isak Dinesen (1885–1962)

Author of Out of Africa

224+ Works 15,938 Members 245 Reviews 63 Favorited

About the Author

Isak Dinesen was born Karen Christentze Dinesen in Rungsted, Denmark on April 17, 1885. She studied English at Oxford University and painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. During her lifetime, she wrote plays, short stories, novels, poetry, and nonfiction works. Her career as a writer show more spanned from 1907 to 1962. She was published in Danish under the name of Karen Blixen and in English under the pseudonym of Isak Dinesen. Her short story collections include Seven Gothic Tales, Winter Tales, and Last Tales. Her nonfiction book, Out of Africa, was published in 1937 and was adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Meryl Streep in 1985. She died of emaciation September 7, 1962. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Foto: TAGE CHRISTENSEN, as appeared in politiken.dk The photo shows Karen Blixen in 1935

Works by Isak Dinesen

Out of Africa (1937) 5,128 copies
Seven Gothic Tales (1934) 2,351 copies
Winter's Tales (1942) 1,602 copies
Last Tales (1955) 608 copies
Babette's Feast (1950) 476 copies
Shadows on the Grass (1960) 444 copies
The Angelic Avengers (1944) 275 copies
Ehrengard (1962) 244 copies
The Dreaming Child (1995) 88 copies
The Immortal Story (1974) 44 copies
From the Ngong Hills (1996) 38 copies
Efterladte fortaellinger (1975) 35 copies
The Necklace / The Pearls (2001) — Contributor — 15 copies
The De Cats Family (1998) 12 copies
The Dreamers (1998) 10 copies
Sorrowacre 10 copies
Gotiska berättelser (2018) 8 copies
Samlede essays (1985) 8 copies
Karen Blixen i Danmark : breve 1931-62 (1996) — Author — 8 copies
Tempests (1983) 7 copies
The Supper at Elsinore (1934) 5 copies
Les Contes (2007) 4 copies
Farah 4 copies
Breve fra Afrika 1914-24 (1988) 4 copies
Wind, zand en sterren : reizen in de woestijn (2002) — Author — 4 copies
Miedo (Spanish Edition) (2014) 4 copies
Sombras na Relva (2009) 4 copies
Cuentos completos 1 (2016) 3 copies
Osceola 3 copies
Cuentos completos 2 (2016) 3 copies
Yedi Harika Hediye (2012) 3 copies
Essais (2000) 2 copies
Talvemuinasjutud (2013) 2 copies
Essays 2 copies
Ser fiel a la historia (2013) 2 copies
Alkmene 2 copies
Peter and Rosa 2 copies
The Pearls 2 copies
The Heroine (2006) 2 copies
En Båltale 2 copies
Barua A Soldani 2 copies
Blixikon (1999) 2 copies
Les Rêveurs (2022) 2 copies
Dinesen 1 copy
Karen Blixens blomster (2016) 1 copy
Téli regék (2000) 1 copy
1986 1 copy
Iš Afrikos (2006) 1 copy
Das träumende Kind (1986) 1 copy
Zimske priče (2011) 1 copy
Echoes 1 copy
קרנבל (1987) 1 copy
No title 1 copy
PAJ #29 1 copy
Night Walk 1 copy
Sombras no capim (1960) 1 copy
The Cloak 1 copy
The Ring 1 copy
The Diver 1 copy
The Fat Man 1 copy
The Last Day 1 copy

Associated Works

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1951) — Foreword, some editions — 2,695 copies
The Story of an African Farm (1883) — Introduction, some editions — 1,059 copies
The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales (1992) — Contributor — 529 copies
Black Water: The Book of Fantastic Literature (1983) — Contributor — 490 copies
The Norton Book of Women's Lives (1993) — Contributor — 405 copies
The Penguin Book of Lesbian Short Stories (1993) — Contributor — 294 copies
A Treasury of Short Stories (1947) — Contributor — 286 copies
A World of Great Stories (1947) 254 copies
Sudden Fiction International: Sixty Short-Short Stories (1989) — Contributor — 208 copies
Maiden Voyages: Writings of Women Travelers (1993) — Contributor — 187 copies
Babette's Feast [1987 film] (1987) — Novel — 186 copies
Murder & Other Acts of Literature (1997) — Contributor — 144 copies
Randall Jarrell's Book of Stories (1958) — Contributor — 141 copies
Stories of the Sea (2010) — Contributor — 133 copies
Famous Ghost Stories (1944) — Author — 131 copies
Bedtime Stories (Everyman's Pocket Classics) (2011) — Contributor — 117 copies
Longing For Darkness: Kamante's Tales from Out of Africa (1600) — Contributor; Photographer — 101 copies
Women and Fiction: Volume 2 (1978) — Contributor — 72 copies
Nightshade: 20th Century Ghost Stories (1999) — Contributor — 64 copies
Murderous Schemes (1996) — Contributor — 57 copies
Nine Faces of Kenya (1990) — Contributor — 51 copies
Reading for Pleasure (1957) — Contributor — 49 copies
The Virago Book of Wanderlust and Dreams (1998) — Contributor — 35 copies
Haunting Women (1988) — Contributor — 35 copies
Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season (2006) — Contributor — 33 copies
The Best Ghost Stories (1990) — Contributor — 26 copies
Copenhagen Tales (2014) — Contributor — 16 copies
Murder Without Tears (1946) — Contributor — 9 copies
Til bords i Babettes gjestebud (2004) — some editions — 9 copies
Isak Dinesen and Karen Blixen: The Mask and the Reality (1971) — Contributor — 6 copies
Hævnen og andre danske mesterfortællinger, Bind 2 (1973) — Author, some editions — 6 copies
Stella Polaris : fantastiske fortellinger fra Norden (1982) — Contributor — 6 copies
Twenty-Three Modern Stories (1963) — Contributor — 4 copies
Det forbandede hus — Author, some editions — 3 copies
Mørkets gjerninger : 21 hårreisende kriminalhistorier (2001) — Contributor — 3 copies
Miłość Safini — Contributor — 2 copies
Danske Fortællinger, anden del — Author, some editions — 1 copy
Introduction to Fiction (1974) — Contributor — 1 copy


1001 books (72) 19th century (75) 20th century (358) Africa (890) American literature (92) anthology (450) autobiography (298) biography (333) classic (162) classics (198) Danish (263) Danish literature (334) Denmark (260) English literature (67) essays (65) fantasy (118) fiction (2,261) Folio Society (75) gothic (211) history (74) horror (138) Isak Dinesen (211) Kenya (308) literature (509) memoir (543) narrativa (74) New York (62) non-fiction (465) novel (217) own (61) read (144) Roman (83) Scandinavian literature (79) short stories (1,269) South Africa (77) stories (161) to-read (760) travel (192) unread (144) women (132)

Common Knowledge



Her most religious collection. Religious in the sense that she thematizes religion, and especially Christianity, in nearly every story. Not religious in the sense of spiritual. Whereas her Biblical sources were, in previous collections, more implicit, she here places them front and center. It's strange that she chose to call this book "Last Tales," as she actually continued publishing books after this one, roughly half her total output, in fact. Clearly the three volumes that precede "Last Tales" are her greatest achievement, but "Anecdotes of Destiny" was yet to come, and with it "Babette's Feast," and, according to Robert Langbaum, she even knew that she had at least one more collection ("Anecdotes of Destiny) before she even offered "Last Tales" to her publisher. I gave "Last Tales" five stars--probably overrating it, but it's a book I reread and continue to find remarkable for the beauty of its language and the keen turns of thought. It's true that, aesthetically, she returns, almost obsessively, to the same tacks she developed in "Seven Gothic Tales," but for me lack of novelty is not necessarily a flaw.… (more)
gtross | 4 other reviews | Sep 13, 2023 |
A classic first published in 1937 - Out of Africa is a memoir of the author’s experiences and adventures while living in Africa and managing a coffee plantation from 1914 to 1931, after her separation from her husband, (also said to be her cousin, Baron Bror von Blixon-Finecke). The book was published under her pseudo-name of Isak Dinesen (nee Karen Blixon). She doesn’t really go into details about the coffee plantation itself, except that she owned 6000 acres, of which 600 acres were planted with coffee trees at 600 trees per acres. She doesn’t even mention her marriage at all. Her only reference to her ex-husband that gave any clue to his character was a remark that if she had owned the plantation herself, she would not have spent and wasted away the profits. It is rumored that he also had many affairs that may have destroyed their marriage, but Karen doesn’t mention this in her memoir. She developed a lasting friendship and love affair with pilot and hunter, Denys Finch Hatton.

What really stood out for me in this writing was the cultural differences between the Native Africans and the British who were migrating and changing the rules, the laws, and the landscape of the African continent. She said the native mind works in strange ways, and you will see that as you read some of the dialogue between her and them.

A big portion of the Blixon’s land was occupied by “squatters”, or natives, of the Kikuyus tribe who had been there for several generations, many even born there. She tells of many personal stories and interactions with these Native servants, at times even sounding a little patronizing, herself. They were allowed to squat in return for work on the farm for a certain amount of days; she also paid them enough to pay for their hut-taxes, which she collected for the Nairobi government.

With the collapse of the coffee industry, she was not prepared and was forced to sell out and leave Africa behind and return to her home country in Denmark. All the land was purchased by a large corporation and was eventually to be sectioned out for housing and such, which meant the Natives had lost their support and were forced to move onto the reservations. The Ngong Hills today is a hiking resort, a place I would love to visit if it weren’t for all the friction between the Africans and whites today in Africa.

Her only dream had been to return to Africa and possibly open a small little hospital of sorts out in the Masai Reservation to help the sick, but she didn’t make as much money as had anticipated with the publishing of “Out of Africa” in 1937. She had to let her dreams die, and as the approach of WWII put Denmark in dire straits, she decided to just focus on writing to pass the time. She died in 1962, at age 77, of malnutrition, two years after publishing the follow-up to “Out of Africa”, called “Shadows of the Grass”, which spoke of her continued correspondence with a few of her closest and faithful Native servants, and was published in 1960.

MOVIE: Out of Africa (1985), starring Robert Redford, the pilot, hunter, and lover, and Meryl Streep as Karen Blixon. 4-star movie...a great love story! Of course, you will still learn more of the Native cultures from the book.
… (more)
MissysBookshelf | 20 other reviews | Aug 27, 2023 |
One of the great adventure novels, written by a great storyteller.
mykl-s | 98 other reviews | Aug 12, 2023 |


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Associated Authors

Ruth Wolf Translator
Anne Born Translator
Frans Lasson Editor, Preface
W. D. Paden Translator
P. M. Mitchell Translator
Hannah Arendt Foreword
Elspeth Huxley Introduction
Yvonne Manceron Translator
横山 貞子 Translator
Alan Moorehead Introduction
Ulrike Draesner Afterword
Bernardine Kielty Introduction
平野 甲賀 Designer
Gisela Perlet Translator
Artur Lundkvist Translator
Werner Anttila Translator
Kate Baylay Illustrator
Majeska Illustrator
Margaret Atwood Introduction
W. E. Süskind Translator
H.J. Scheepmaker Translator
Maria Rosich Translator
Susanne Heeder Cover designer
Sigrid Daub Translator
Carl Gustaf Bjurström Translator, Choix des tectes pour l'édition française
Carl Hollander Cover designer


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