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Out of Africa (1937)

by Isak Dinesen

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,709921,906 (3.91)359
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)
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» See also 359 mentions

English (74)  Italian (5)  Norwegian (3)  Danish (2)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (92)
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
Beautiful phrasing, interesting woman.
Not much of a story but it *is* a memoir.
I would have liked to know more about the author and the reason things were happening. Thank goodness for Google. ( )
  curious_squid | Apr 5, 2021 |
There is some truly magnificent, poetic writing on show here. Some of it moved me to tears-Blixen's reflections on the fate of two captive giraffes and her obvious and understandable sense of loss when she finally has to leave Kenya for good. I particularly like the section titled "From an Immigrant's Notebook" consisting of short and illuminating reflections on so many aspects of her time in Africa. However for some reason I didn't love this book. From modern eyes some of it didn't sit well-in particular the eviction of the 'Natives' from their own land (although Blixen reflects on this herself right at the end of the book)and the shooting of the wildlife. Nor do you really get a sense of Karen Blixen herself. I certainly need to find a good biography and find out more about her. ( )
  Patsmith139 | Mar 15, 2021 |
Katsoin elokuvan joku aika sitten ja innostuin lukemaan kirjan vanhempien hyllystä. Oletin, että kirja olisi ollut enemmänkin oma elämänkerta, mutta se olikin enemmän kuin päiväkirja, joka hyppii ajatuksen mukana sinne tänne. Kirjasta sai kyllä aika mielenkiintoisella tavalla kuvan Afrikasta 1900-luvun alkupuolelta. Joistain arvosteluista luin, että lukijat eivät pitäneet kirjoittajan alentuvasta suhtautumisesta afrikkalaisiin. Omasta mielestäni hän kyllä arvosti niitä kovasti ja nimeomaan ymmärsi, että heidän tapansa ovat erilaiset kuin Euroopassa. Tottakai kirjassa esiintyi esim. sana neekeri, onhan se suomennettu jo vuonna 1938 (vuosi ilmestymisensä jälkeen). Mutta pidin vanhasta kielestä ja neekeriäkin käytettiin kuvaavana sanana, ei koskaan haukkumasanana. Mielelläni lukisin myös Karen Blixenin elämänkerran, koska tästä kirjasta jäi moni asia epäselväksi. Elokuvassa näitä selitettiin, mutta en tiedä otettiinko siinä taiteellisia vapauksia, vai olivatko nämä todellisia tapauksia Karenin elämästä. Kaiken kaikkiaan nautin kirjasta kovasti ja oli mielenkiintoista lukea nimenomaan naisen kokemuksia tällaisena aikana Afrikassa, jossa ehkä oli lopulta eurooppalaiselle naiselle jopa enemmän mahdollisuuksia kuin Euroopassa. Jos oikein muistan, taitaa meiltä löytyä myös elämänkerta, eli ehkä pitää laittaa lukulistalle :) ( )
  RankkaApina | Feb 22, 2021 |
https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3575849.html

Blixen is no anthropologist, but she makes a serious effort to engage with Kenya and the people on their own terms and to describe it respectfully to her European audience. She goes fairly deeply into religion, which is not mentioned on screen at all. As already noted, she carefully distinguished between the different African and non-African groups, and it's clear that her Kenya is very racially mixed, and that the days of white rule, only a few decades old, are already numbered.

It's not actually a novel. It's a collection of short reflective pieces, all of course linked, four of the five sections pursuing their own internal thread (though the penultimate sections is a grab-bag of vignettes). I think perhaps a third or a quarter of what's in the book made it to the screen. The core plot of the film, her romance with Finch-Hatton, is not at all explicit in the book, though it's pretty obvious what is going on from the number of times his name is mentioned, and it's almost a shock when her husband is mentioned for the first time on page 193 of 283. There is not a lot explicitly about racism, but here's one of the short pieces in full:

The Elite of Bournemouth

I had as neighbour a settler who had been a doctor at home. Once, when the wife of one of my houseboys was about to die in childbirth, and I could not get into Nairobi, because the long rains had ruined the roads, I wrote to my neighbour and asked him to do me the great service of coming over and helping her. He very kindly came, in the midst of a terrible thunderstorm and torrents of tropical rain, and, at the last moment, by his skill, he saved the life of the woman and the child.

Afterwards he wrote me a letter to say that although he had for once, on my appeal, treated a Native, I must understand that he could not let that sort of thing occur again. I myself would fully realize the fact, he felt convinced, when he informed me that he had before now, practised to the élite of Bournemouth.

And there is some gorgeous description, especially of the landscape. Here's the description of her first plane flight with Finch-Hatton:

We flew in the sun, but the hillside lay in a transparent brown shade, which soon we got into. It did not take us long to spy the buffalo from the air. Upon one of the long rounded green ridges which run, like folds of a cloth gathered together at each peak, down the side of the Ngong mountain, a herd of twenty-seven buffalo were grazing. First we saw them a long way below us, like mice moving gently on a floor, but we dived down, circling over and along their ridge, a hundred and fifty feet above them and well within shooting distance; we counted them as they peacefully blended and separated. There was one very old big black bull in the herd, one or two younger bulls, and a number of calves. The open stretch of sward upon which they walked was closed in by bush; had a stranger approached on the ground they would have heard or scented him at once, but they were not prepared for advance from the air. We had to keep moving above them all the time. They heard the noise of our machine and stopped grazing, but they did not seem to have it in them to look up. In the end they realized that something very strange was about; the old bull first walked out in front of the herd, raising his hundredweight horns, braving the unseen enemy, his four feet planted on the ground – suddenly he began to trot down the ridge and after a moment he broke into a canter. The whole clan now followed him, stampeding headlong down, and as they switched and plunged into the bush, dust and loose stones rose in their wake. In the thicket they stopped and kept close together: it looked as if a small glade in the hill had been paved with dark grey stones. Here they believed themselves to be covered to the view, and so they were to anything moving along the ground, but they could not hide themselves from the eyes of the bird of the air. We flew up and away.

There's also a lovely anecdote about a young Swede teaching her Swahili, who is embarrassed by the fact that the Swahili for "nine" (tisa) sounds like the Swedish for "pee" (tisse), and convinces her that there is in fact no number nine in Swahili until someone puts her straight. I sympathise a little. I have known a number of baronesses in my time, and I don't recall ever saying the word "pee" in front of any of them.

One other point that I noted while researching this post: they were all younger than we see on screen, the men much younger. When Karen married Baron Blixen in 1914, she was 28 and he was 27. She first met Denys Finch Hatton in 1918, when she was 33 and he was 31. Meryl Streep was 36 when the film was made, Klaus Maria Brandauer 42 and Robert Redford 49. Knowing the real ages of the protagonists does change the way you understand the story, I think.

Kenya is not a country I know much about - I changed planes in Nairobi three times in my South Sudan days, with long stopovers but no tourism each time, and the only other books I've read that explore it in any detail are also autobiographies, by Barack Obama and Vince Cable. Unlike the other two, this book made me want to know more. ( )
  nwhyte | Jan 30, 2021 |
The story of a Danish woman managing a coffee farm in Kenya in the early 20th century - the dynamics between her and the tribal people are very interesting, while white people are practically absent. Her descriptions are rather original - definitely worth reading. ( )
  WiebkeK | Jan 21, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dinesen, Isakprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wolf, RuthTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Anttila, WernerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
甲賀, 平野Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Draesner, UlrikeAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drudi Demby, LuciaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
貞子, 横山Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huxley, ElspethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kielty, BernardineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundkvist, ArturTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manceron, YvonneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moorehead, AlanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perlet, GiselaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolf, RuthTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Equitare, Arcum tendere, Veritatem dicere
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I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.
Quotations
A white man who wanted to say a pretty thing to you would write: "I can never forget you." The African says: "We do not think of you, that you can ever forget us."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141183330, 0241951437, 0143566369

 

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