Out of Africa (Penguin Modern Classics)

By Isak Dinesen

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
larry
I started reading this with great expectations, but I quickly realized I was having a hard time reading the story. The print in the book I received is very small, and I'm now wondering if I should not have seen the movie....three times...before attempting to read the book.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
katherine chou
I don't know. I bought this as a gift for someone who expressed interest, but I have received no feedback after several months. That usually is a bad sign. Buying books for someone else is always chancy.....
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
rhiannon
Though Isak Denisen's work is fabulous, well crafted describing a life style so different
from what I've know... I did not finish the book.

I cannot stand stories of big brave hunters with guns shooting wild creatures...for no other reason than
to kill them, display their heads or paws. If villages are attacked it makes sense, otherwise
this slaughter is ugly.

I did not finish the book...don't even want to give it away.

Karen Blixen's (Isak Denisen pen name) story is unusual and I admire her attempts to create a life
for herself and others...helping the natives to find meaningful work. Other than that...
am glad I could put it down.
Do Not Become Alarmed :: Fierce :: If She Did It :: The Awakening :: Strangers in Death
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
alexander brown
After watching the movie, I was eager to read the actual story it was based on...Oh my....a bit of a "yawn". Didn't make it even 1/3 through; just couldn't stay interested. More of a day to day diary of her life on the coffee plantation and not nearly as interesting or historically the same as the movie...I think the movie may have taken a lot of creative license to make it interesting. However, it does give a very good description of life in Africa in the early 1900's.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rachna
The reading of this book is a joy, wish I had not read and was going to read it for the first time. The vendor who sell s the book in the UK sends the most polite emails I have ever recieved. The British are hands down the most polite people to do business with. Wish more American Companies would adopt politeness as a policy for their business pratices.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
romke
The book is beautifully written, but this copy is odd. The cover is very pixelated and the spacing is odd (no identations). Plus there are only 212 pages, but I was certain there was supposed to be around 314?
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
sarah foley
The description of African topography were great. The writing was stilted. I think the screen writers had a heavy task in order to develop a worthwhile movie from this book. It was a chore to read and I did not finish it.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
betty junod
If you are a fan of the movie, OUT OF AFRICA, with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford you may be disappointed when you read the book. Because it doesn't have that same, clear linear narrative of Karen Blixen's life in Africa. The movie clearly used biographical events to provide a clearer structure.

Instead, the book is more a series of snapshots. Individual stories and recollections of both local and European people, each one separate and distinct, rather than woven together into one story. There are of course stories about friends like Denys Finch-Hatton and Berkeley Cole. But they are episodic. For example, Blixen's troubled marriage to Bror Blixen and romance with Finch-Hatton are never mentioned in the book.

Blixen's use of language is beautiful, though I must admit I wish I could have heard Meryl Streep narrate it for me. What you will get collectively from this read is an account of life in Kenya during and after World War I, including deep understanding of the beauty inherent in the lives of the local tribespeople. Blixen clearly had a rich appreciation of how the Kenyans made sense of all that colonization brought to their country.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
charles cox
Karen Blixen may be best known today, at least to English speakers, as a character played by Meryl Streep in a film, but she was of course a real-life person, an author who wrote her books in English and then translated them into her native Danish. The 1985 film version of “Out of Africa” is essentially a love-story dealing with the love triangle between Karen, her husband Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke, and the English colonist Denys Finch-Hatton (played, ludicrously, by Robert Redford with an American accent). In the book Bror is hardly mentioned, and although Finch-Hatton plays an important part there is no suggestion that he and Karen were anything more than platonic friends. (Although Blixen originally published her books under the male pseudonym “Isak Dinesen”, I will refer to her by the name by which she has become better known in Britain).

Karen and Bror Blixen moved to what was then known as British East Africa, today Kenya, in 1913; their original plan was to raise dairy cattle, but instead developed their land as a coffee plantation. The book recounts her life as a coffee grower between 1913 and 1931, when the Great Depression and falling coffee prices forced her to sell and return to Denmark. The title is derived from the old Latin tag “Ex Africa semper aliquid novi”, which translates as “There is always something new out of Africa.”

“Out of Africa” is not an “autobiography” in the normal sense of that word. There is nothing about Blixen’s life in Danmark before moving to Africa, and precious little about her life after leaving. Bror is virtually written out of her life. (The marriage was not a happy one and ended in divorce). It is rather a memoir of her life in Africa, with little linear chronological structure, except towards the end when she describes the events which led to her leaving her farm. She describes her life on her coffee plantation, the landscapes and wildlife of Kenya and some of the people she knew there. These include Finch-Hatton, Berkeley Cole, another leading colonist, and an eccentric Danish fisherman known as “Old Knudsen”.

Not all her friends and acquaintances, however, were Europeans. Blixen also writes about her relationships with Africans, many of whom she saw as friends. In some ways she stood outside the mainstream of British colonial society. This was partly, of course, because she was not British by birth. The First World War broke out not long after her arrival in the colony, and as a citizen of a neutral country she came under some suspicion, particularly as she was a friend of the German commander in East Africa, Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. Even after the war, however, her attitude to Africans tended to set her apart.

Blixen has come under some criticism from other reviewers for her allegedly racist view of Africans, or Natives as she refers to them. Certainly, she can at times be guilty of over-generalising and tending to assume that all Africans share the same characteristics, and these generalisations can at times sound patronising. Particularly so is her comparison of Africans to nine-year-old children. (This theory is not contained in “Out of Africa” itself but in “Shadows on the Grass”, a set of essays about her Kenyan experiences written towards the end of her life, and published as an appendix in this volume. It seems strange to come across this sort of attitude in an essay first published as late as 1960, only a few years before Kenyan independence).

She can, however, generalise about Europeans as well; a common formula in her writing is something along the lines of “The Natives on the one hand are like this, the Europeans on the other are like that”. It should be borne in mind, however, that she was living in a colonialist society where racist attitudes were deeply ingrained. She might have generalised about African cultures, but at least she did take a genuine interest in them, unlike most British settlers who took no interest in Africans at all except as servants and labourers. Her desire to contrast Africans and Europeans in this way seems to be connected with one of her favourite concepts, the way in which two complementary opposites can come together to form what she calls a “Unity”. Moreover, some Africans do emerge from her writing as genuine individuals in their own right, especially her Somali major-domo Farah Aden, who, it is clear, also became a close friend, her cook Kamante and the local chieftain Kinanjui,

Blixen writes in a lyrical, poetic style, if perhaps rather less ornate than the one she was to use in some of her later fictions such as “Winter’s Tales”. Her opening paragraph is a good example:-

"I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the north, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up; near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold."

The lyricism of her prose helps Blixen to express her great passion, her love for her land. She loved her farm for far more than its monetary value- the altitude was not ideal for coffee and she never made a great fortune from it- and her enforced departure from the country was clearly a traumatic experience. Her love also encompassed the animals who lived on the land, despite her keenness on hunting, and also its human inhabitants, whom she saw as forming a Unity with the land. Or as she herself put it:-

“Noble found I ever the native, and insipid the immigrant”.

“Out of Africa” may chronicle a now vanished era in Africa’s history; it may enshrine some dated attitudes. Yet its author’s passions still have the power to touch us, nearly eighty years since it was first published in 1937.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
vaderbird
Out of Africa is usually called a memoir, but anyone knowledgeable about Karen Blixen’s actual biography will appreciate that this book of remarkably wayward and discursive prose is both more and less than a memoir. At least I can’t think of another work in which an author writes so movingly of her lover’s death without revealing that he ever was her lover. Here is prose is to be savored but not necessarily believed beyond what is true of fiction.

Blixen had a greater success with this work in the United States than in Britain, and it’s melancholy to contemplate that eighty years later no major American publisher would touch a manuscript with sentiments so beyond the pale of current political correctness. The educated reader will probably be able to make sense of the untranslated French, German, and African vocabulary; but again, I think contemporary publishers would demand at least English footnotes. (In one short piece even the punch line is in French.) And the constant biblical allusions—rarely used by Blixen in a religious way—reflect the degree to which the Bible was still common currency in the 1930s. Sections of the book will probably strike most 21st century readers as overly mannered, but many others still reach the heart.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
abigail mcgrew
This is a story of the life of the author, of Danish birth, when she lived in Africa in Kenya between 1914 and 1931on a 4,000 acre coffee plantation. She writes in a time after her husband had died, a time between and during World War I and into the beginning of World War II.
She describes the Kenya landscape and skyscape, the servants and visitors, the tribes and families within them, the animal and bird life, the politics and social mores of various famous and unknown people who come into her life. As she writes, the reader gets to know her: strong-willed, even dictatorial; principled and flexible when she has to be to get her way, sensitive to nature and insightful about people; caring and respectful for life. She is obviously organized, and gregarious at times, private at others. In other words, a very special, educated, self-defined, self-determined woman. She is the Boss, the Protector, the Teacher, the Healer to various people who come and go as friends and visitors, tribal and European.
Her prose is poetry-- vivid, unique, exquisite with wonder and appreciation. It is a delight to read, and she is able to bring the love she has for Africa and Kenya right into the readers mind and heart. This book is unique, a book everyone should read.
The second part of the book, “Shadows on the Grass”, is more diary and a long Afterward. It is full of quick sketches of people and occasions, comments and details about those whom the reader met or learned about in the larger, previous “Out of Africa.” It tells of her return to Denmark, of the changes in Kenya, of correspondence between herself and those she was acquainted with when in Kenya. It shows an older woman with memories and new perspective—a bit nostalgic but basically still realistic about life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mahansa sinulingga
I don't know where my head has been all these years, not to have read these books. I fell in love with the movie, of course, but the books are vastly better! Dinesen/Blixen was a great wordsmith, imparting her meaning with precision and poetry. Some of the stories had their counterparts in the movie, but the written words are so much more vivid and compelling, and there are more and deeper stories than in the film version. And the sequel Shadows in the Grass gives followup on the author but much more about the later years of the people she knew when she "had a farm in Africa". That pleased me highly because whenever I become interested in and fond of a book's characters, real or imagined, I always, always want to find out what happened next. Terrific writing, and highly satisfying!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
matthew wollenweber
I assumed that I knew this book. I thought I must have read it before. I have seen the film, a great romantic spectacle starring the shape-shifting Meryl Street and the swash-buckling Robert Redford at his delectable best. The book is quite different. It tries to recreate a sense of what it was like to live in Africa at the time all Africa was still a colony. The romance is between the coffee farmer, Baroness Blixen, and the country and people of the Ngong Hills.

Blixen has been decried for patronizing the native peoples in her employ, but in many ways she was ahead of her time. She presents some vignettes of real colonial patronizing (e.g. her short essay "The Elite of Bournemouth") with no direct comment but with a world of implicit irony. Her descriptions of the native people are full of admiration and affection, as well as color and detail which brings them vividly present. Yes, she compares the children and servants to dogs and elephants and storks. I don’t find this patronizing – our language is full of words and metaphors which compare people to animals – a kittenish flirt, an eagle-eyed matron, a hen-witted gossip… and these are the clichés. Blixen’s comparisons are not clichés, but help create those vivid, living images.

I can’t characterize Blixen as a racist even by our current strict standards. She acknowledges, admires, and understands the differences between the Masai, the Swahili, and the Kiyukyu peoples who form part of her landscape, and tries to accommodate each of them, just as a well-intentioned modern Unitarian Universalist might do her best to accommodate the different needs of a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, and a Vegan who were expected to attend a dinner she is hosting. Is this racism, or practicality?

Modern African writers such as Adichie and Teju Cole describe the social dislocation of today’s Africa, where modern Western technology clashes with tribal and societal custom. Blixen suggests that it would have been better if Westerners had brought Africans along little by little; that by the time she encountered them they could enjoy the humor of Aristophanes, but even if they caught up 30 cultural years of Western culture for every calendar year, it would take them a long time to understand Western cultural ideas, such as their infatuation with autos instead of cows.

She wasn’t so wrong.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
dorien
It was a great pleasure to travel to Africa through this beautifully written, deeply meditative love story. Especially because recently all we hear about Africa has been atrocity, disease, violence of all forms, reading this book,( although the Western colonization and hubris certainly existed then), written by a woman whose voice conveys her genuine affection for the land, people, animals of Africa was both wonderful and sad. Her writing is so vivid, she brings Africa, its wind, silence, its movements, all alive with all the lessons to learn from the land and the people. In Africa, she finds love, trust, companionship and grieves over many losses, however, the losses through deaths, even the tragic ones have a very strong sense of continuity and true repose. What a beautifully perceptive book!

"The civilized people have lost the aptitude of stillness, and must take lessons in silence from the wild before they are accepted by it. The art of moving gently without suddenness is the first to be studied by the hunter, ad more so by the hunter with the camera. Hunters cannot have their own way they must fall in with the wind, and the colours and smells of the landscape, and they must make the tempo of the ensemble their own. Sometimes it repeats a movement over and over again, and they must follow up with it."

"...they had preserved a knowledge that was lost to us by our first parents; Africa amongst the continents, will teach it to you: that God and the Devil are one, the majesty co-eternal, not two uncreated but one uncreated, and the Natives either confounded the persons nor divided
the substance."

"They had real courage: the unadulterated liking of danger,---the true answer of creation to the announcement of their lot,---the echo fro the earth when heaven had spoken. I sometimes thought that what, at the bottom of their hearts, they feared from us was pedantry. In the hands of a pedant they die of grief."

"The 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 are going on, destinies are made round you, there is activity to all sides, and it is none of your concern."
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
scott c
Very good book about her time in Africa. Very poetic but also very sad. Every time she killed a lion, I cringed thinking about how they are endangered now. At the end I wrote, "heartbreaking end of a civilization that has it's land and traditions taken from it." What right did the British have to take away the natives lives, land, and identity? This book makes our culture feel cold, lifeless, and meaningless with no love or adventure. It left me feeling like there's a magic to life that I'm not part of. Where is my tribe of people to love, care for, fight, dance and die with? It made me feel more lonely.

If you like poetic books that require a lot of focused attention and find African cultures intriguing you'll love it.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
narottama
This is a cheap reproduction. The cover has pixellated artwork. The spine is generic. The typesetting is terrible -- poor font choice, small text size, non-standard page size. Do not waste your money on this book. You'd be better served paying a few dollars more for the Modern Library hardcover edition.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
jane ward
I finished this book months ago but just found my notes to make this review. It bothered me that the author seemed to give her opinions to others as if she were an authority on justice and on medicine. Did she consider herself an authority because she was white or because she had the title of baroness?
I found the author's sentence structure and punctuation deplorable. The author also switched languages with no translation, and that irritated me. Her descriptions were way too long when mixed with other content.
Poetry and killing animals seemed to me an odd combination. The author compared people to animals way too often in my opinion. I don't like the concept of servants so that also turned me off.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
marny
I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the North, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up, near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold. -Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
Why is it do you suppose, that these should be among the most moving and recognizable opening lines in all of literature? I used to think that they lingered in memory just because of the creepy way that Meryl Streep recites them in the movie. But even contemporaneous reviews often mentioned their haunting quality. I think that ultimately it must be because the book is so specifically about a unique time and place and that this introduction serves to place us there so completely. That after all is what makes the book special, the way that it captures, in minute detail, the brief moment of Colonial splendor in Kenya and turns it into something out of a fairy tale.
Of course, we now know that Isak Dinesen's version of this colony is in fact more mythical than factual--that she was actually Karen Blixen, that in reality the husband who is virtually nonexistent in these pages gave her venereal disease, that Hatton-Finch was not just a buddy but a lover and that the natives, for all her seeming love and respect for them, probably would not appreciate the way she continually compares them to animals. And it is because we know all these things that a book which when it was written seemed merely elegiac now seems truly deluded. But despite all that we've learned in the intervening years, it remains, on it's own terms, a beautiful and heartrending book. I actually prefer Beryl Markham's similar but superior African memoir West With the Night (1941) (read Orrin's review, Grade: A+), but this one's well worth reading too.
GRADE: B+
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
zulfa
"Out of Africa" is not autobiographical. It is a response of Karen Blixen's soul to the African experience. Her writing is lovely, pure, unadorned by any superfluous words. Her sentences can be almost parsed as poetry. "I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills". Each word is like hitting a fine crystal glass with a spoon. The glass will emit a beautiful tone that instantly fades away.

If "Africa" seems to consist of descriptive vignettes, each one a little drama in itself, that is the way Blixen's mind works, gathering and processing bits and pieces to become a reflection, a series of scenes, all invoking the spirit of Africa and Dinesen's response to it. Lulu the Bushbuck fawn; Wamboi, the little native girl who is crushed under an ox cart; Old Knudsen the drunken Danish tramp who is nursed back to health by Karen Blixen and sent on his way; Kamante, the native child who has a terrible skin disease but is finally cured in a Scottish mission, becomes a Christian and returns to Blixen's house, first as a dog toto then as her chef. Half mad, and perhaps that is his secret, Kamante morphs into a superb chef. All these vignettes among many more are Karen's African voice extolling an era that is gone forever.

Threaded through the novel is the personality of the English aristocrat Denys Finch Hatton who "only did but what he wanted to do." Denys was Karen's great love and became her raison d'etre but you would not fathom that from the Ariel-like descriptions of him in "Out of Africa." However, the book is subtly building up to the climax of the story, the death of Denys, who crashes in his plane. Karen loses her coffee farm as well but the book in no way wallows in despair or defeat. At Denys' grave in the Ngong Hills, two lions come to rest on his grave stone and Karen feels that the lions are a sign that Denys' spirit is still there among the hills that he loved and in a sense gave his life for.

"Out of Africa", is, of course, a classic. It is remarkable that the book was written in English with its sensitive feeling for the beauties of the English language, when Danish was Dinesen's native tongue. The writing is sublime and if you haven't read it Isak Dinesen's elegy is a treat you shouldn't miss.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
dan portincaso
The last bit of reading-preparation for the Big Trip was to read Out of Africa, because we're visiting Baroness Blixen's house, now a museum, while we're there. It came bundled with Shadows on the Grass, so I read both.

Together, they form Karen Blixen's memoirs of her time in Kenya. There is very little about her arrival, and almost nothing about her husband, but a great deal about her time there managing the farm and about her eventual, inevitable departure due to inability to keep the farm solvent. This is largely because she was trying to grow coffee at too high an altitude.

Anyway, they're quite well written, with a number of amusing character sketches (human and other) and a few outright adventures. For a European of her time, she was only slightly condescending towards the indigenes (primarily Kikuyu with a bit of Masai and one extremely memorable Somali), and definitely treated them as individual human beings rather than a mass of inferiority.

Probably my favorite incidents in the book are the second part of Out of Africa, about a shooting incident on the farm, and the section of Shadows which discusses the magical powers of a letter from the King of Denmark.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
yassaman
Living in Africa and managing a coffee farm, the author describes her experiences raising coffee and her interaction with the natives who work at the farm and serve as servants. Kamante, a strange native whose values are different from most natives, becomes her chef. For examples, he relates well to animals and cares for them as the author might. When a young bushbuck named Lulu becomes part of her life, Kamante takes charge of her care and feeding thus bonding with her. The book is filled with tale after tale about her African experiences. This is a read to peruse with care as tale after tale stands alone. Others, however, link to give a more complete view of how her life unfolded.

For example, a shooting accident on the farm is the result of children playing with a gun. One boy is killed and another badly injured. The boy who did the shooting disappears and his father must make amends to the dead boy's family. The old men determine the number of animals the family receives. Tribal beliefs and tradition are important in such cases. The situation is examined from many angles it takes a long time. Much later in the book, the boy reappears, grown up and accepted as a valued member of native society and works on the farm.

On the other hand, the friendship with Denys is treasured and related with a clearness that portrays the depth the author felt for this charismatic individual. When he dies in a crash of his plane, the burial scene is related with the same depth emphasizing again the depth of the friendship. This is one I could read again and again.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ashley lansing
Karen Blixen's African adventure (now Kenya) as a colonial Master and a coffee planter brought her in immediate contact with the heart and the mind of the Natives.
Her book is a heartrending but also a violent tale about the laws of the white man, the fight against nature (for water), prejudice, customs and inveterate beliefs (healing), and also about the mysterious and sacred moments in the life of the Natives (e.g., dancing).

Life before colonization
The extreme violence of life before colonization is expressed in a Masai dream: `in the old days it was good fun. When the Kikuyu or the Wakamba had got a fat piece of land and fat herds, we came to them. First we killed all men and male children with steel. We ate the sheep and goats. Then before going away, we killed off the women with wood.'

Colonization
The white man stole the black man's land by creating a `Protectorate'. According to the latter's laws, the Natives could not own land (!). But as Karen Blixen says, 'it is more than their land you take away. It is their past, their roots and their identity.'
The Natives were also bombarded by competing Missions: `the intolerance that one Christian Church showed towards the other.'
The treatment of the blacks by the white colons was nothing more than a master/slave relation.

The Natives
In some aspects, the white man filled in the mind of the Natives the place God takes in the minds of the colons.
For the Natives, something written was taken as an evangel.
Their wealth was their livestock, but also `eroticism (which) runs through their entire existence. It is the number and quality of the wives which decides a man's success and happiness in life, and his own worth.'
The fact that `some nations gave away their maidens to their husbands for nothing' was for them incomprehensible. More, `one tribe was so depraved as to pay the bridegroom. Where was their self-respect?'
In judicial affairs, the Natives didn't look for the motive of the crime. The damage done (even in the case of murder) had to be compensated by replacement (cattle).

Karen Blixen's book sketches an objective, but `human' picture of, all things considered, a shameless period of exploitation in the history of mankind.

Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
susan h
Famous lines are touted in English literature classes, lines that are remembered because of their interesting word choice or captivating quality. Isak Dinesen's line, "I HAD A FARM in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills" is deceptively simple. At first the book seemed to drag, but as I continued reading, the lovely, lyrical prose captivated me, as did the clever way the author linked the tales together, bringing back characters as she revealed more about her experiences. Dinesen's storytelling captivates the reader and makes one feel the wistfulness she had to return to her beloved home. While she explains the differences in mindset between the Europeans and the groups who lived in Kenya, Dinesen never apologizes, simply acknowledging what life was like.

Although Out of Africa is not for every reader, it is one of the most beautifully written books I've read, and is certainly worth the time. For those with limited reading time, the book's short chapters allow you to read and return later, although the captivating style will make you want to continue in Dinesen's world.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tiffiny corbett
I came to this book expecting to read one woman's personal experience of living in Africa, and that's what I found. There is no sociology here, and very little historical context. She does not illuminate THE African experience. She records HER African experience. Certainly that is all she owes the reader? One woman's experience, one woman's life in a time very different from our own.

Do some of her observations shock the modern reader's sensibility? Oh certainly. There are things one simply does not SAY, and back when she wrote, she did. On the whole, her love and respect shine through when speaking of the people who entered her life as neighbors, employees and friends.

Dinesen brings to life a physical landscape that most of us will never get to see. She takes passionate delight in her work, her companions, and her surroundings. Even her setbacks are embraced, as they compose part of a life she knew was slipping away from her.

I was intrigued by what she didn't write. The book maintains almost complete silence about her husband, her health, and her relationship with Denys Finch Hatten. It is only in writing of his death that we understand how deep her feelings were. She writes around that love. Her discretion made my heart ache.

Very highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
heba abbas
I think that when someone writes his/her memories or an autobiography, more than sharing an experience with the readers he / she wants to come to terms with something that happened and Writing can be a very helpful shink sometimes. When it comes to "Out Of Africa", it seems that in the whole book Karen Blixen -- aka Isak Dinesen or Tania Blixen or Pierre Andrezel -- is trying to come to terms with the lost of her farm in Nariobi.
In my opinion, the last part is the most important a nd I had the feeling that all the others are a preparation for what would happen. The novel bounces between naive humor and native costumes in Africa. It is very clear that the writer is deeply in love with the continent, so it is not possible to have an anlytical approach to the subjet. But, of course, we have to keep in mind that she is telling us part of her live, so who would be able to be analytical ? the writing is nice, but sometimes heavy and boring. It came a time while reading that I had the feeling I was `reading' in circles -- I mean it seemed that I'd been reading the same thing over and over again. But I think I could see her point: she wants to tell the more experiences and life in Africa she can. I liked the first pages vey much, they are very lyrical and funny somehow, but after a time all these things become boring and very hard to be followed.
Anyway, the book can be read as a prortrait of the portrait of the colonialism in Africa and its impact on natives's lives. But I wonder how accurate it is. We cannot forget that the story is told by an European's point of view, and many times she addmits not undertanding many costumes of the natives.
However, I cannot forget to mention the high points of the book. It is very admirable to see a woman living and managing a farm by herslf in such a hostile continent. It is very interesting to see how she tackle with so many problems that crop up.
All in all, it is not the kind of reading for eveybody. Many people may find hard to follow it, once there is no plot, nor actually a story, but many memories which are much more linked by their subject than by the chronology.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sashi
Oh, my! I got this recorded book out of the library as what seemed to be the best out of a dubious selection of mostly insignificant books. Expecting only a reasonable distraction from my commute from a book I figured I'd never get around to reading, I was instead confronted with one of the best books I've ever encountered.
As others have said, this is a love story, not between two people but between Blixen and Africa. She was entranced with everything about the country--the air, the countryside, the natives--and it shows in every word. Not that this is some sort of breathless, overwritten memoir. Blixen instead adopts a very matter-of-fact tone, which only adds to its strength. When she describes something extraordinary, it doesn't sound overwritten but instead very real. Though she is struck by the natives, she is plain about their eccentricities as well as the European eccentricities that they show up.
She described in detail many of the people she encountered, both Europeans and natives, and one feels that one knows them and mourns when some of them die. Beautifully written with a fascinating subject, it is a book that I will have to read in text form, and soon.
I should add that the reader of the recorded book, Wanda McCaddon, provides just the right tone for it with her careful, straightforward, but never bland, enunciation.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
beth sklar
If you're expecting the book to be the same as the movie, you'll be disappointed. While scenes and moods from the book show up in the movie, the two are very different. The book is BETTER!

Beautifully written, Out of Africa is a memoir, not a biography or a story. It is a collection of moods, emotions, people, scenery, and experiences without a plot or storyline... kind of like life that way. Dinesen/Blixen tells of the people she knew in Africa, most of them the Africans who work and live at the farm. I expected racist moments in the text, and while she uses archaic words (nothing vulgar, thankfully), I didn't find it racist in any way. Her respect, admiration, and great love for the Africans she knew is wonderful and endearing. She writes more of them than her husband, her lover, her English friends, or her Danish relatives than anyone else (many of the white people she knew in Africa are conspicuously absent from the book).

I plan to read Out of Africa again and again.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
noelle arcuri
I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the North, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up, near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold. -Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
Why is it do you suppose, that these should be among the most moving and recognizable opening lines in all of literature? I used to think that they lingered in memory just because of the creepy way that Meryl Streep recites them in the movie. But even contemporaneous reviews often mentioned their haunting quality. I think that ultimately it must be because the book is so specifically about a unique time and place and that this introduction serves to place us there so completely. That after all is what makes the book special, the way that it captures, in minute detail, the brief moment of Colonial splendor in Kenya and turns it into something out of a fairy tale.
Of course, we now know that Isak Dinesen's version of this colony is in fact more mythical than factual--that she was actually Karen Blixen, that in reality the husband who is virtually nonexistent in these pages gave her venereal disease, that Hatton-Finch was not just a buddy but a lover and that the natives, for all her seeming love and respect for them, probably would not appreciate the way she continually compares them to animals. And it is because we know all these things that a book which when it was written seemed merely elegiac now seems truly deluded. But despite all that we've learned in the intervening years, it remains, on it's own terms, a beautiful and heartrending book. I actually prefer Beryl Markham's similar but superior African memoir West With the Night (1941) (read Orrin's review, Grade: A+), but this one's well worth reading too.
GRADE: B+
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
fran green
A quintessential, lyrical love poem to East Africa. Karen Blixen's years of joy, discovery and struggle unfold beautifully in "Out of Africa"...which she wrote years later (under the pseudonym Isak Denesen) after returning to her native Denmark. What is absent from the book which one finds in the Oscar-winning film are the relationship struggles with her long-time companion Dennys Finch Hatton. Here she keeps her focus on the many friends, employees and characters she met along the way in the operation of her coffee plantation during the early 1900s...and avoids writing romantically about Finch Hatton. Her love affair with Africa though is beautifully and eloquently expressed throughout "Out Of Africa." Those readers who may be interested in reading more about her and Finch Hatton might be interested in reading her "Letters From Africa."
"Out Of Africa" is essential reading for those contemplating a journey to Kenya or Tanzania. It reads like a very colorful and sometimes haunting work of fiction, and is all the more fascinating because this remarkable woman and writer actually experienced it all.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cori atkins
Isak Dinesen is one of my favorite authors and one of the books contained in this volume, "Shadows on the Grass" is my favorite book of hers. I must confess that I think as a fully realized piece of literature, "Out of Africa" (making this collection of the two a real bargain) and for trademark decadent splender, "Seven Gothic Tales" is better, but I like this one for one story and one in particular which seems to merge both elements. This is "A Letter from A King" in which Dinesen recalls a lion hunt which she and Denys went on. Upon shooting a rather large lion she had it skinned and sent to the king. His majesty Christian X sent her a warm letter of thanks which she in turn used as a king of magic totem with the natives who worked on her coffee farm. The story contains far more elements than just that. I also must confess that when I first encountered this work of literature it was in the course of watching a film at the Karen Blixen house in Denmark where I watched as the author told to the story during the course of the film. The other stories in this book are excellent as well. I recommend this book as well as all of the other books that Isak Dinesen wrote, they are all wonderful.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
suzan alareed
Dinesen was really good at describing the beauty of the land and the animals in Africa and at telling the story of her African adventure of running her own farm with the Natives. She seems to be a European woman who is delighted to be expanding her freedom to explore new country and act independently as a woman. She managed her farm without a husband and was even a good shot with a gun. Unfortunately, her expansion of freedom came at the expense of the Natives living there. They could no longer roam about the land freely and were eventually put on reservations by the colonial government. One of life's dilemmas is your own expansion of freedom and quality of life means the diminishment of others' freedom and quality of life, and vice versa.

Dinisen's love of Africa is one of taking visual delight in the territory and feeling that she was comfortable in Africa. She mentions the glorious views of Africa which are immensely wide: "Everything that you saw made for greatness and freedom, and unequalled nobility" She could breathe easily in the air of the highlands and felt she was supposed to be there: "Up in this high air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart. In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be".

Dinesen got along with the natives well by learning the rhythm of Africa and was fascinated by its people. She learned the rhythm of Africa, which would help her in dealing with the Natives: "When you have caught the rhythm of Africa, you find it is the same as all her music. What I learned from the game of the country, was useful to me in my dealings with the Native People". She says that "the discovery of the dark races was a magnificent enlargement of all my world". She says that the Natives are Africa "in flesh and blood" and are one with it, whereas the immigrants are hurried and jar the landscape. When they "...work the soil, or herd the cattle, or hold their big dances, or tell you a tale, it is Africa wandering, dancing, and entertaining you".

Dinesen adopts an antelope and names it Lulu and brings it into the house after having second thoughts about not rescuing it. Lulu became a celebrity on the farm: "On the strength of this great beauty and gracefulness, Lulu obtained for herself a commanding position in the house, and was treated with respect by all". The dogs would move out of the way of Lulu if they were at the milk bowl or in her resting spot. Dinesen compares her to a feminine, noble lady.

Lulu became discontent with her surroundings and the inhabitants of the house: "But Lulu was not really gentle, she had the so-called devil in her. She had, to the highest degree, the feminine trait of being exclusively on the defensive, concentrated on the integrity of her being, when she was really with every force in her, bent upon the offensive. Against whom? Against the whole world...Sometimes when the spirit came upon her and her discontent with her surroundings reached a climax, she would perform for the satisfaction of her own heart, on the lawn in front of the house, a war dance, which looked like a brief zig-zagged prayer to Satan".

Her discontent was largely due to her growing pains of maturation and once she runs away and returns with her mate, Denison says: "Lulu of the woods was a superior, independent being, a change of heart had come upon her, she was in possession. If I had happened to have known a young princess in exile, and while she was still a pretender to the throne, and had met her again in her full queenly estate after she had come into her rights, our meeting would had had the same character".

Dinesen thinks that Lulu makes her house and property connected to wild nature: "Lulu came into the wild world to show that we were on good terms with it, and she made my house one with the African landscape, so that nobody could tell where one stopped and the other began". The years that Lulu and her family visited her farm were Denison's happiest years in Africa. She thought that their appearance was a good omen for her and a sign of a bond of friendship between her and Africa.

Denison feels she knows Africa so well and wonders if Africa knows her well too: "I know the song of Africa--I thought--of the Giraffe, and the African new moon lying on her back, and ploughs in the fields, and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me?". Commenting on her years in Africa, Dinesen says, "Now, looking back on my life in Africa, I feel that it might be altogether described as the existence of a person who had come from a rushed and noisy world, into a still country". She enjoyed her expeditions through Africa and sees herself as part of it: "The grass was me, and the air, the distant invisible mountains were me, the tired oxen were me. I breathed with the slight night wind in the thorn trees".

Originally, Dinesen wanted to write a much more outspoken critique of how the English treated the natives under colonialism, but chose instead to tone done this message. Some critics have been concerned about the rosy view of Colonialism that Dinesen presents. Dinesen was a "kind colonialist" who would not remove the squatters off the land to make it profitable by raising cattle and corn there. The colonial government, however, would tax the Natives which forced them to work for Whites and would not allow them to grow cash crops to achieve financial independence.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kara eaton
Writing under the pen name of Isak Dinessen, "Out of Africa", published in 1937, was written by Karen Blixen who lived in Kenya from 1914 to 1931. She was from Denmark and had come to Kenya to marry her Swedish cousin, but even though the marriage didn't work out, she stayed on their 4,000 acre coffee farm. In loving detail she describes her way of life, including some extensive descriptions of incidents involving her native servants. Through it all her love for the people and for Africa shines though. The reader lives her adventures with her and shares her regrets when the farm fails and she has return to Europe. "Shadows on the Grass", published in 1960 is a much shorter work and describes her relationships with some of her African friends in the years after she had to leave. Together these two books form the story of her world and stand today as both a literary and historical document to the times.
Ms. Dinessen used her words well. I particularly loved her characterizations of the native people who touched her life. . She had no medical training with the exception of a first-aid course and yet she doctored to the many people who worked for her. She was also a fine huntswoman, good with a gun. There were seasons of drought on the farm as well as attacks by grasshoppers and she wrote about all of this. Often her European friends stayed at her home, bringing food delicacies and wine. One of the men died horribly in a plane crash and her description of his funeral and his burial was most moving.
Perhaps some of her views on the differences between Europeans and the natives as well as the way she casually killed animals might not be considered politically correct today. And it was never clear to me if the man who died was her lover or not. She also makes not one reference to her failed marriage; I learned about that in the preface written by others. The central theme of this memoir is one of love, of a deep love for a people and a place and a way of life. I understand that the farm she lived on has become a shopping mall today. But we are all indeed fortunate to have her beautiful writings that bring us back to a time and place that is no more. Her words live on. And I thank her for them. Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
katie magee
The book, "Out of Africa," is a memoir of the Danish Baroness Karen Blixen's habitation near Nairobi in Kenya from 1914 to 1931 on a fertile 6000-acre coffee plantation, "at the foot of the Ngong Hills" (1992: 3). Blixen writes under the pen-name Isak Dinesen. Karen Blixen went to British East Africa (in a location in present-day, Kenya) to join her German husband (Baron Bror Blixen), and upon separation she stayed in Kenya to manage the farm by herself. The extent of her adventures in Africa, and to what extent she is a feminist is borne out by the book, as well as the film "Out of Africa," that is based on the book. This piece will examine such, as well as comparisons between the book and the film.

Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) presents geographical detail, oftentimes comparisons and contrasts within this fertile land of the Kikuyu people that would several decades later be the crux of the Mau-Mau rebellion over whites' displacement and dispossession of natives from their land. Dinesen also compares features with those of her native Europe. Dinesen writes of the equatorial habitat, "Everything that you saw made for greatness and freedom, and unequaled nobility...Up in this high air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart: Here I am where I ought to be" (1992: 4). Dinesen writes of "heavy-scented lilies," of "long-rains," "ever-changing clouds," of "hills from the farm [that} changed their character many times in the course of the day, and sometimes looked quite close and at times very far away" (1992: 4). Dinesen, in precise and elegant language displays love and fascination for the geography, the clean air, the animals, the beauty of this African environment; she becomes possessed by the place.The movie captures the large, picturesque, mysterious, and varied eastern equatorial Africa where the eland, the buffalo, and the rhino are quite common sights; the movie impressively and unanimously earned, Oscar, "Best Picture of the Year."

In the end Dinesen is forced to give up her plantation, this scenario elicits a heartache and sadness. Dinesen's memoirs, years after she had left Africa could be a reflection of her nostalgic dealing with her loss of the farm as well as overall experiences in Africa. Dinesen stands out as a courageous and strong woman, one who is in the feminist direction. She lost her philandering husband, but stayed on bravely, for nearly 20 years in a foreign harsh environment, one with languages and cultures far-fetched from her own. Dinesen worked well at being appreciative of an environment that was new to her, during an era of colonialism in Africa, a time when Darwinian relegation of black Africans to the lowest of human species and elevation of whites to the upper rung was very strong. Dinesen cuts through the female traditional roles, she tries flying in planes, the goes on safari, she learns how to shoot and even shoots and kills game. She is open and welcomes countless visitors from all over the world to her home and farm. This was an age of exploration and acquisition of "Dark Africa," by Europeans and Asians. Dinesen is quite aware of her feminine strength. She rescues and adopts a wounded antelope she names Lulu; Lulu becomes a celebrity on the farm; Dinesen searches, discovers and celebrates the feminist strength in Lulu: "But Lulu was not really gentle, she had the so-called devil in her. She had, to the highest degree, the feminine trait of appearing to be exclusively on the defensive, concentrating on guarding the integrity of her being, when she was really, with the force in her, bent upon and defensive" (1992: 74). Also, "Lulu of the woods was a superior, independent being...she was in possession. If I had happened to have known a young princess in exile, and while she was still a pretender to the throne, and had met her again in her full queenly estate after she had come into her rights, our meeting would have had the same character" (1992: 78).

The book displays that Karen Blixen exemplified the Europeans with the upper hand in colonial world conquest and politics. It is to be recalled that the three weapons used by Europeans to subjugate Africans were the gun, the Bible, and the anthropologist. Karen used guns to protect herself. Catholic (mostly Belgian and French), Protestant (mostly British), and Muslim (mostly Arabic) agencies vied for power in Africa. The Germans were in present-day neighboring Tanzania (German East Africa) to the south. They would be ousted during this significant, "Scramble for Africa." The book illustrates how Karen Blixen took great interest in which religious group the young natives (some of whom served her) adhered to. Many native followers, taught to kneel and pray to an invisible white Almighty god, became converted to the political/ religious groups, as they became dispossessed of their land resources. The anthropology aspect, as mentioned, involved relegation of black Africans to the lowest rungs of evolutionary mankind...the white was relegated as the superior, the master, the savior, the benevolent, the genius. The movie is great at casting Meryl Streep as the beautiful, rosy-cheeked clean, statuesque woman amidst muddy, black African paradise! The real Karen Blixen likely had more rugged looks and likely often got "down-and-dirty," than is depicted in the movie. An equatorial Africa of long and heavy rainy seasons, of continuous tropical sun, and of limited running water would not leave the Danish heroine so clean and collected.

It is to be recalled that Dinesen is writing from an overly European point of view, hence, negative criticism of her will not be short. Her attitude to black Africans is racist and condescending. In the movie, Denys Finch-Hatton (Robert Redford) rebukes her for instructing native porters to get off her belongings by "shooing," them off!. Finch-Hatton, in shock, remarks to her, "Shoo?" as if telling her, "I do not believe you addressed these people that way!" Finch-Hatton (who became Dinesen's lover) knows the native languages (Kiswahili and Kikuyu), and goes on to communicate her instructions to the porters. Black Africans are prevalently depicted in the movie as poverty-stricken servants, laborers and porters, as helpless people close to animal nature. In tune with the movie, here Dinesen writes, "They were poor people, small and underfed; they looked like a pair of badgers on my lawn...I could hardly distinguish them against the grass. They were sank in deep grief; their bereavement and their economic loss melted into one overwhelming distress" (1992: 108). Dinesen is surprised that the, "Natives," are strikingly open, adapting, welcoming and unprejudiced. Yet, as prevalent in the colonial fashion, she does not attribute this to the inner traditions and workings of indigenous African society, but from influence from foreigners including slavers! "The lack of prejudice in the Natives is a striking thing, for you expect to find dark taboos in the primitive people. It is due...to their acquaintance 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...by the settlers and big-game hunters" (1992: 54).

Dinesen wishes the natives would understand and appreciate her more. It is always presumptuous to be confident of having fully understood a foreign culture and people; she does not seem to believe she is prejudiced and why the natives to a good extent regard her as a foreigner far different from them, and difficult to comprehend. She writes, "If I know a song of Africa,---I thought,---of the Giraffe, and the African new moon lying on her back, of the ploughs in the field, and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me?" (1992: 83). At the same time, Dinesen quite often acknowledges that newcomers from Africa are from a noisy and rushed world, they do not have the patience and connectedness of native Africans. European colonialists imposed on the natives an alien system of forced dispossession and displacement and of monopoly. So much of this colonial intrusion was quite new to the prevalently communalist and family-oriented, egalitarian way of native African subsistence.

Karen Blixen's marriage starts out as more of a convenience than of romance. She left Denmark to marry the German Baron Bror Blixen (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and start a dairy in Kenya. Bror is actually the brother of her lover. Karen is offering her fortune for companionship and adventure (and for the title of, "Baroness") much more than for enjoying the security of a man. So, from the outset, Karen's feminist inclinations are strong. The husband changes his mind about the diary, and instead invests her money in a risky venture of growing coffee. The husband is unfaithful, philandering, gives her syphilis that will disable her from having children; the marriage breaks up. Karen is left to manage the farm, she has to battle with floods and fire. Hardly anything of British big game hunter Denys Finch-Hatton's romance with Dinesen (Karen Blixen), is mentioned in the book; the movie likely borrows from other sources depicting the life of Karen Blixen. Unfortunately the English accent of Denys Finch-Hatton is not conveyed by Redford, compared to Karen's excellent outflow of a Scandinavian accent. Yet, the movie depicts their chemistry, Denys is impressed by her strength and independence, Karen's ability to tell and weave stories, they kiss, and in one scene have sex. Karen does seem to desire long-term companionship and commitment from Denys, desire for a man who will sacrifice to be with her. She stands against having a man like Denys who wants to be "free-wheeling," one who will come and go depending on need and desire, he loves the African outdoors. Finch-Hatton is mysterious, elusive and emotionally distant, but he is miscast in that in the movie: he seems to represent an all-American jock that waywardly found his way into Africa. Karen was wounded before, and this encounter with Denys is only a brief moment of ecstasy, but she bravely soldiers on, appreciating more of what is around her. Karen is indeed confident, stoic and creative in face of the odds. She did resist going on safari with Denys, but she eventually succumbed to his quite undeniable invitation. Eventually, they got closer, she broadened her horizons, she better adapted to and better accepted foreigners and their ways.

In conclusion, the movie emphasizes the romantic issues and episodes in Karen Blixen's life in Africa (romance and sex sells in Hollywood), much more than the book does. The book seems to be constructed from a breadth of notes of what Blixen put together while in Africa, and weaved them into a good fairy tale. The truth is that Blixen dealt with aspects like fluctuating coffee prices, sometimes drought and heavy rains, discontented dispossessed natives, scrambles for Africa amongst several European agencies, African diseases and sometimes unsanitary conditions, wildlife from untamed neighborhoods. The movie does display the exquisite beauty of tropical Africa which Blixen did dwell on, but not on the colonial wranglings. There is lyrical beauty in Blixen's writing, and the movie does elicit an African peaceful mood through the excellent music. Blixen, in both the movie and the book is a strong and opinionated woman, yet flexible and open to ideas, people, and adventure. She is a significant precursor of modern-day feminism.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
wain parham
"Out of Africa" is the beautiful memoir of Isak Dineson. I went into the reading of it with high expectations-because I had watched the movie. "Out of Africa" the movie contains high drama, a mystical score, and a passionate love story that streaks the cheeks in tears.

The book doesn't follow a dramatic through line, as the movie did; rather, it is a delicate sweep over the whole of Isak's decade and a half in Kenya.

Dineson doesn't touch particularly close upon any subject. Rather, she hops from topic to topic, discussing the Somali women, the Swahili numeral system, an earthquake, deaths, drought, tragic friendships, birds, myriad visitors from Europe and the Masai Reserve, the Kyama (an assembly of elders of a farm in her day, which was authorized by the government to settle local differences among squatters), a visit by the Prince of Wales (he is given far less coverage than the visit and later death of her friend Chief Kinanjui of the Kikuyu people), Nairobi, coffee-farming, the geographical position of her farm, safaris, giraffes, majestic lions, her medical practice on the farm, Kamante (her Kikuyu cook), and Ngomas (native dances.)

Isak Dineson was a poet, and every paragraph of her memoir is a song. You could open to any page in Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" and hear a melody. So too you hear music in Dineson, on any page and upon any subject. Her phrasing is so spiritual and fragile it seems to weep from the pages, and yet in that weeping is very deep love and very deep respect-so deep that she cannot separate one memory from any other. It's for this reason the through line isn't there. There is no start, finish or climax to her memories. It's one continuous thought.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
gerardo enrique
Karen Blixen, the author, managed a six thousand acre farm in Kenya, of which some six hundred acres were used for growing coffee, apparently for all intents and purposes all by herself from 1914 to 1931. The movie depicts her moving there from her native Denmark rather haphazardly with an accidental husband, who leaves for his own escapades soon after they arrive, only occasionally returning for a visit. The book hardly ever mentions her husband, and does not run in a chronological sequence like the movie, but consists of a series of mostly time-unrelated stories.

The most beautiful and touching section to me is the opening one entitled "Kamanate and Lulu". The author has been criticized to some degree for assimilating the racism of the day and for her priviledged position as a Baronness in a time of European Colonialism. She writes that in her very young days, "I could not live till I had killed every specimen of African game". A curious attitude for a young woman - perhaps reflective of the coming World War when armies lined up and executed each other for no memorable reason; and perhaps reflective of what was happening in Africa and Asia where Native people were forced off their land, leaving them no choice but to be utterly dependent on menial work for a pittance. But in these opening stories of this young native boy whom she helps to cure of a debilitating illness that nobody seems to pay attention to, and adopts an orphan bushbuck fawn, it becomes clear from the start that she had a real heartfelt love for the Native people and a strong and abiding connection to the harsh beauty of the land and its unbelievable variety and the wonder of its wildlife. She became dependent on the Native people in many ways, and recognized their dependency on her. There is a sense of humility, learned no doubt from the difficulties of being alone in a dangerous and risky place. She knew that she could never know these people for certain, that they would always be somewhat unfathomable, but she cared enough to find out quite a number of things about them and to admire them as well as sometimes being amused by their ways. That the name of the native boy and the bushbuck are juxtaposed lends credence to a criticism that the author does not distinguish between the humanness of the Natives from the animal, or at the very least cannot view them as more than children. But I do not think that criticism is valid here. Her point was that to understand the Native people of Africa one must first understand the land.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
reagan
The sum, in this instance, is not greater than its parts.
"Out of Africa" is essentially one woman's personal account of years spent living in Africa, surviving and struggling to maintain a farm and the number of people dependent on it. Isak Dinesen, also known as Karen Blixen, is a talented writer and does a wonderful job conveying both the objective reality and the subjective effects of each scene she describes. She writes about her own personal struggles maintaining her farm, describes the natives she encounters and, with much respect and obvious admiration, records some of their rituals and habits. In many ways, the work is a love letter to Africa because even in times of hardship and doubt, Dinesen's respect and awe for the land and its people is never in doubt.
Unfortunately, each of the individual stories- and that is really what this book consists of, a collection of stories- does not really add up to a whole that transcends its parts. Because Dinesen's reverence for the land is obvious from page one, the reader is not privvy to any growth or spiritual journey that she undergoes. There are hints of romance, tales of overcoming obstacles, and the closing stories do find her packing up and moving back to Holland, but she, as an individual, does not really change.
This is an excellent book and not only highlights Dinesen's strength as a writer and the ease with which she manipulates the language, but pays great homage to the land and the people of Africa. It could have been more, however, and ultimately leaves the reader a little unsatisfied.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
thomas l
Isak Dinesen has in this work brought to life the beauty of living in the African wild. Her story told through the eyes of heart break is able to take the reader into the wilds of Africa, and create a respect for the land, its people and its wild. Her love for every aspect of the land is openly apparent from the very beginning of the book, and we see it even at the very end when she begs the British Governor to allow the natives to remain on her land. This far away land had taken her into its arms when she needed its love the most, and this was her way of paying it back. She broke tradition in many ways - her eventual admittance to the 'mens club' in Nairobi reveals the amazing strength of this woman. She had a farm in Africa, and she truely loved it for everything it was and everything it had shared with her and she with it. This is a book that my mother read, and now I have read and love it. It transported both of us to this far away land and made us fall in love with its beauty - this maybe the reason why my mother returns to Africa every few years to visit the plains of Masaimara. I assure you, you will not regret reading this work - it is one of a kind!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
john pedersen
This book will never be surpassed by another book from another Danish author. Karen Blixen's book is all the way up there among the best books ever written in the history of mankind. Now she don't quite reach the top, which in my opinion is inhabited by books like "Hamlet", "Crime And Punishment", "The Picture of Dorian Gray", but this book is just below that level. Blixen touches the sky in this book. The book fulfills the Shakespearean ideal, that there should be something for both the peasant and the king. I guess there are myriad of ways to read this book, one could be to see it as a self portrait of Blixen. To me Blixen was a quite wonderful being, I think the absolute was running in her veins. She was the embodiment of something which we have heard about in myths, but didn't really thought existed, she was a living god, and... a living devil. I have always been a bit puzzled about that a woman like Blixen spend the 1920's in colonial Africa, I mean why not Paris? But on the other hand Blixen found a fantastic material for her novel in Africa. She was quite interested in the black natives, which for a fair part actually, still in the 1920's, was living in a cultural development resembling the stoneage in Europe 5000 BCE. I mean they used bow and arrow and their native farming was utterly primitive. Blixen's view on the world properly stretched far beyond the contemporary time's generally accepted picture. So for her the black native culture was properly something of a relief. Maybe the human potential is a constant and development in one respect implies loss in another? In that respect Blixen found a wealth of human ability in the native black people, they could do things and had a view upon things which we have long, long since forgotten.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jonathan anderson
Out of Africa, once read, is not easily forgotten. Karen Blixen writing under the name Isak Dinesen tells the story of the 17 years on her coffee plantation in Africa. This is a book written from the heart and my emotions were moved more than once by the prose and thoughts on the written page. What I did find very disconcerting was the flat out racism toward the native people of Africa, acceptable among Europeans at that time but so strongly outdated in this time as to be offensive. She has a most superior attitude, towards all peoples other than Europeans and even towards most Europeans. In additon the total disregard for wild life and the environment would make many of us cringe today. This is her true experience, those were her beliefs and feelings and Karen Blixen makes no excuses or apologies for her life but simply states what was and how she felt about it. If taken for what it is; a wonderful collections of vignettes of a life loved and well lived, it is an excellent addition to any collection
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
zafar
Baroness Karen Blixen's famous memoir of her years on the coffee plantation high above Nairobi is significant for her description of what today's Kenya was like in the early part of the 20th century, for the book's influence for attracting and shaping the reactions of many who followed her to Kenya like Dr. Jane Goodall, and her engaging personality for taking on the challenges, trials, and problems of others while grasping their perspective on her. Although a progressive thinker for her day, sex, and class, nevertheless Ms. Blixen's views on the native Africans will not sit well with most modern readers (from referring to men who worked for her as "boys" to her inclination toward seeing native Africans as perpetually apart from the machine-inventing and using Europeans). Conservationists will be appalled by the casual shooting of lions who might have been chasing domesticated cattle.
The book is also notable for its lack of organization, often scanty details, and rapidly shifting focus. There are several places about 70 percent of the way through the book where you will wonder why she included the material at all, and even more why there in that particular spot.
The book's ultimate appeal is to the concept of being a young woman on her own in a beautiful part of African with the freedom and resources to explore herself and Africa.
I should like to have known her. A woman with such warmth and empathy for others must surely have made a wonderful friend. There's an element of Don Quixote in her as she pursues her impossible dream of a coffee plantation in the wrong place that's also appealing.
After you finish reading the book, I suggest that you think about where you could go today and have such a close connection to your new neighbors. Would you like to do that? What would you be willing to give up for this emotional resonance?
See yourself as others probably see you! Let humility be your guide.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
a mary
Judith Thurman in her biography of Isak Dinesen writes about ' Out of Africa.' "I think that 'out of Africa' does not describe Karen Blixen's life onn her African farm as it was in a documentary sense, lived. The serene perfection of the style, the spareness of detail, the attendance of gods all signal that we have escaped from the gravity of practical questions and have gotten up into a purer element, one that offers less resistance to the ideal. The point of view in ' Out ofAfrica' is that "overveiw" which KarenBlixen called " the one thing of vital importance to achieve in life." What we see is a landscape from the air: time and action have been tremendously compressed and telescopes.So whwn she writes, " We grew coffe on my farm. The land itself was alittle too high for coffee and it was hard work to keep it wgoing, we were never rich on the farm, " we are , in effect, taking in eighteen years of drought, mismanagement, and struggle, the endless petty quarrels with the shareholders and intrigues with bankers, the terrible fluctations of international coffee prices, and the vagaries of weather .And to describe how she was driven to write by these misfortunes she begins simply: "When times were dull on the farm.. This phase is like a seed. It contains a complete lifetime of boredom and loneliness, and the brief visits and precipitous departures of her lover".

I believe what Thursman is saying is that Isak Dinesen in 'Out of Africa' did not write about her life literally, but instead shaped into a story a fairy tale a work of magic. She transformed her life into a higher realm that of romantic legend. And this explains at least in part its great appeal, for what the reader is really getting is a kind of miraculous picture of a world they can long to be a part of .

Magic, mystery and romance in great art make this a unique classic , the story of a great storyteller.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
steph sievers
Out of Africa is the author's own narrative of her years spent on an eventually unsuccessful coffee plantation near Nairobi, Kenya, during the early years of the 20th century. It is obvious that the author's goal in writing this book was to express her sincere love of Africa to her audience. She succeeds beautifully.

While I was hoping this narrative would be little more educational and/or exciting than it actually was, I was still left with a very notable and lasting impression upon reading this book. My overall image and perception of Africa during this era will now forever include scenes and images described by the author.

Readers should recognize three things before reading this book. First, political correctness was not an issue at the time the author lived in Africa. Second, the number one reason to read this book is to enjoy the beautiful language the author so masterfully employs. Third, be prepared to either ignore the foreign language references (all of them untranslated) or take the time to learn their translations and their significance.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable book which I highly recommend to anyone who has interest in Africa or excellent literature.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
becky 22
Isak Dinesen, nee Karen Blixen, lived in East Africa for almost twenty years making a living as the proprietor of a coffee plantation. Out of Africa is a memoir of her experiences there. But the book is so much more.

The stories are interesting to be sure. They relate to the plantation or the people and events that one way or another impacted her life there. But it is Blixen's writing that I found so sublime. I have never read anything like it. The way Blixen turns a phrase is both lyrical and enchanting all at once - you become literally swept up in the words and imagery. It is obvious that Blixen loved Africa - something about the continent got under her skin. In a similar fashion her words have gotten under mine. I have read Out of Africa several times; each time I marvel at the beautiful language she uses. Read this book and I am sure you will feel the same way.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
abinash
I have read Out of Africa several times. Dinesen's first few words: "I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong hills..." Even now, remembering this simple, exquisite first sentence, the same refined, clear, breathless feeling grabs my heart. Each time, I feel physically pulled into her world. If I had to memorize a novel for the benefit of humanity (Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451) this is the one I would choose. Over the years, I have given away each copy and find myself without one just now, but reminded today of the book, I am ordering one on Kindle. I liked the Redford/Streep film, too, but the film and book are two entirely different experiences. I gives me great pleasure to imagine someone reading it for the first time. Enjoy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mickie8tencza
Out of Africa is the very best of many memoirs of Africa in the early part of this century, the era before two World Wars changed that continent completely. For 15 years, between 1914 and 1931, Baroness Karen Blixen ran a coffee plantation in Kenya. Her unhappy marriage and her much happier, though tragic, love affair are not prominent subjects in her book, as they were in the movie of the same name (excellent, with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford so excellently cast). Isak Dinesen (Blixen's pen name) is primarily a story-teller, and this lovely book is a collection that elevates her stories to mythic, poetic, and epic levels. While one of the first of the era's feminists, she was also gifted with sensitivity, the ability to form deep and lasting friendships, awareness of what was being lost in Africa, and an appreciation for both the mundane and the magical. It all comes through in her writing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
diane tadeo
Out of Africa is an literary accomplishment that will remain in history as portraying Africa as it really was in that era. Karen Blixen was so in touch with the native tribes of Kenya. Her deep respect for their customs and lives is obvious in this book, which wasn't common then among the new European settlers. The way that her fascinating stories unfold is remarkable, making long hours of the night spent trying to put the book down without success.
I saw Out of Africa as a child, and read the book in college, which inspired me to go to Kenya when I graduated. I visited the land that Karen Blixen donated upon her departure from Kenya, which was turned into a town named "Karen", and her home and everything in it have been preserved, down to the lantern she would leave on for Finch-Hatton. Still today the town's people speak of Karen Blixen in great admiration, perhaps giving back what she unconditionally gave to them.
I would recommend this book to anyone who knows how to read!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
harleen
Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) has been elevated to star status by the feminists for her independent stance and courage, but don't read this book because of that. Don't look for the tragic story of her misguided marriage and the heartbreak and barrenness it brought her, or for descriptions of her love affair with adventurer Denys Finch-Hatton. None of that appears here.
Instead, "Out of Africa" is a storytelling book woven in the imaginative Danish style. Dinesen's finely tuned sensitivity is revealed here, as well as her (again typically Danish) well-developed gift for friendship with many kinds of people. In her case this gift extends to African animals as well, like Lulu, the beautiful gazelle who graced her plantation for years.

Her descriptions of the Kenya of her day are exquisitely written, factual and magical at the same time. Africa is the star of the book, not Dinesen herself, not the tribespeople or the colonials, not her struggles with raising coffee in land "a little too high", nor her political dealings with the government officials. Her writing evokes the Africa she knew well and loved deeply.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
pieterjan
Read this and the most incurable insomniac will go to sleep.

It's not that the book is bad--there are beautiful, even luscious discriptions of Africa and its people, and
there are number of interesting, intriguing vignettes, especially in the first part of the second half of the book--but the whole is supposed to equal the sum of its parts. This book does not.

Frankly, it fails in that respect. Just too long, too wordy, too overwritten at times. In part, perhaps, because of the writing style of the time in which it was written--the mid-30s--it is slow and boring at times. Some of it puts the mind to sleep and that part the insomniacs will love.

All the same, it is a book worth reading. But take your time and have something else to read while you are working your way through it. It's a slow read, at times downright boring, but, in the end, when it matters most, it is a book worth reading.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mohmmed ameen
This is one of my favourite novels (although technically it is actually not a novel but a memoir, i.e. an idealized account based on a more or less true story). I am biased, having spent time in Kenya, but even so it must carry universal appeal for all. It is in essence a bittersweet love story, a search for the most meaningful life. But also remember that this is a far cry from the reality of 'Baroness' Blixen's life in Africa - the truth is much less romantic. None the less, it is a pity that Karen Blixen never received the Noble Prize for her work, even though Mr. Hemingway thought she should have - in place of himself!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
michelle marino
I find most autobiographies to be masterbatory exercises in which the authors attempt to explain themselves.

But in Out of Africa, Denison does no explaining, no apologizing. It is love poem to the Africa she knew, and while she does display racist views, it is as she unashamedly shows her heartbreak over a world she loved and was lost.

Denison also wrote some very powerful short stories, most notably the ones in "Winter's Tales." "The Sorrow Acre," is technically one of the most masterly presented short stories I have ever read. Despite her later skills, though, Out of Africa sets itself apart as a masterpiece for its ability to elegantly show an individual's gushing sense of loss.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kelly baumgartner
I'm another reader who comes to Out of Africa by way of Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye; and it became recommended reading before I visited Kenya for myself in the early 90's. So, having just finished it and now half way through Shadows on the Grass, my overall impression is a pleasant one. I enjoyed Dinesen's writing style very much, and would agree with many readers that Out of Africa deserves a place among the classics in English literature. It's Karen Blixen's memoirs of her time in Kenya around WWI, living and working on her coffee plantation near Nairobi. Her descriptions of the Natives, her European friends, the land, the animals, flora and fauna are incredible. The chapters shift back and forth in time, some focused on specific events and individuals, some more whimsical and anecdotal. Reading Out of Africa transports the reader into early 20th Centrury colonial Kenya, and more concretely, onto Ms. Blixen's farm at the foot of the Ngong Hills. Years later she takes up her time in Africa again in Shadows on the Grass, talking more about her loyal Somali servant & right-hand man, Farah, taking a more philosophical tone regarding "masters & slaves", Native superstitions, manners, and so on. Shadows is inferior in many ways to Out of Africa, and it feels more like an "addendum" to the main work, which is poetry by comparison. By the time she writes it, she seems to have grown slightly more distant, and well, Colonist European.

As for Out of Africa, if you've seen the movie version and are looking for it here you're in for a surprise because the book contains no overt romance between Karen & Denys, nor mention of siphylous, nor much in the way of Karen's own personal life. Her ex-husband, Bror is almost non-existant. That makes sense seeing that she wrote under a pseudonym for whatever reaons. Still, I was slightly disappointed not to find more personal thoughts or emotions from her, or discussions regarding the politcal, historical, or economic backdrop of Kenya. Or the workings of the coffee business there. (I have yet to read it, but from what I gather "Uhuru" by Robert Ruark is an excellent novel dealing with these types of affairs in Kenya in the next generations after Blixen, in the 1950's & 1960's). Also, Blixen is very much a product of the times and her colonial attitudes and mindset sometimes come across as condescending or negative towards the Africans (mostly in certain passages in Shadows though). However, I do believe that in her frequent comparisons between the animals, land, and Natives Blixen is actually praising and admiring the people, not being racist or mean, as one reviewer here claims. She frequently praises the Kikuyus, Masai, and Somali she lives with for their numerous attributes (as well as the European settlers) and for their simplicity and harmony with nature, versus the repressed and "civilized" Europe she comes from. One other thing that's different from the movie is her attitude towards hunting. In the movie it's as though she doesn't hunt at all, but in the book she specifically mentions her intitial desire to shoot one of every kind of local game (though she does later express some distaste for hunting, she remains enthusiastic about shooting lions, comparing it in Shadows to "a declaration of love" and hunting to being a sort of "love-affair"). She means respect, but oh how the times have changed now with all the big game enthusiasts shooting game with . . . cameras from pop-top mini-vans!

Once I let go of the movie (its own masterpiece of beauty & cinematography) and my intellectual curiosities, and came to accept Blixen's memoir as it is, I enjoyed it more and more as I read on. I took my time reading it, savoring it, and reflecting upon my own safari experience (with a camera) in Kenya not too many years ago, and found much to admire and contemplate in her writings, even if from a different era. While Out of Africa isn't especially deep or philosphical, nor dramatic or emotional, it somehow comes across as a grand novel, and there are moments when all of the above hit you. This is due primarily, I think, to Blixen's having lived a fascinating life in a unique period and place, and knowing how to tell a story without overdoing it - she just writes her own experiences. One good example of this balance can be found in one of my favorite chapters entitled, "A Fugitive Rests on the Farm" from Part III. In it, a Swedish immigrant and traveler named Emmanuelson stays briefly on Karen's farm, discusses his lonely and peripatetic life with her, and eventually walks off into the Masai reserve all alone, putting his fate into God & the Masai's hands. The sparse detail and images are great. Likewise, her rememberances with Denys Fitch-Hatton are wonderfuly scenic and memorable as well, and subtly romantic. All the vignettes she relates are mostly undramatic, straight-forward, and though unforgettable. Out of Africa is a unique literary memoir and journal of a diverse group of people come together in one specific place and time, bonded together by the very soil in which the coffee trees they lived for were once planted, and live on in these organic pages.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nicole olson
For anyone who's ever had to leave somewhere and never forgotten it, this is a must read.
You really get a strong sense of heartache here when Blixen is forced to give up her plantation toward the end of the book. I think the final pages of this story are some of the saddest ever written in literature. And yes, you can call someone's memoirs literature.
While the fine film version is based on three books, this is the definitive, haunting one which expertly, more than any visual medium, describes what it's like to be possessed by a place. More than Blixen being in Africa, this is more like Africa being in Blixen.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
jim keith
This reads more like a collection of short stories of things she remembers from having a coffee farm in Africa. They are true stories which makes it more interesting to me. It can get a little dry since there is no overall plot, but it's still a fascinating look at a different life and times. Isak Dinesen was a pen name for Karen Blixen and she was an inspiring and independent woman. The book is pretty similar to the movie. I really liked it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
joshua daniel
If your not interested in Baroness Blixen or Africa, still read this one. Read for the beautiful descriptive prose of Isak Dinesen. She seems to want us to experience the prose, just as she experienced life on a coffee farm in the Ngong hill country of Africa. There is a grace about Baroness Blixen that is difficult to describe. One really doesn't know where the grace comes from, yet it wafts up out of the prose, greeting us as an esteemed friend, and inviting us to stay awhile on the Ngong hills.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
matthew reed
Out of Africa by Karen Blixen is honestly one of the best books I have ever read! I've read many travel books, but this one eats the cake. The author does such an excellent job of describing the scenery and happenings on the coffee farm. With a little imagination, you can feel as though you are right in the middle of the action. I would suggest watching the movie after reading the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
2andel
This book, (actually autobiographical) is a very enjoyable read that takes the reader to the time and place that it was written(early 20th century Europe colonized Africa). From this perspective, it also provides a great outlook from that time of what the future could hold for European/African and in fact human/earth relations. The only drawback is that at times, the author focuses too closely on some non-important characters and side stories and looses focus on the larger and more interesting picture of her existence in Africa and her interaction with the people there.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
sarah hagge
It is a very well written book on the lives and nature in Africa. it is not a gripping story. I was disappointed in that I decided to read the book after seeing the movie on TCM and the book is not at all like the movie.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
therese
...except thou bless me." Karen Blixen's (aka, Isak Dinesen) command of the English language is incomparable. At times, while reading this book, I had to remind myself that I was reading prose and not poetry, though in this particular instance, the distinction matters not, for they are one in the same. If you're searching for a book that will communicate directly with your soul (and you're sick of Chicken Soup), then place this one at the top of your list. A true literary classic in every sense of the term and merits a preferential spot on everyone's library shelf.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
majjka
I decided to read this book because in the book "Catcher in the Rye," Holden says that he "wouldn't mind calling this Isak Dinesen up." So anyway, I agree with him for the most part, and there's no doubt that Baroness Blixen would have some interesting stories to tell over the dinner table. However, the book Out of Africa is a bit less enjoyable than a one on one chat, and her descriptions in general are pretty objective. There were two main things that bothered me:

-Much of the beginning of the book is a sort of 'how Europeans are different than Africans.' I understand that her second class treatment of the natives was an accepted attitude of the time, but it seems that her observations about race take up a goodly chunk of her book.

-Another thing that irked me was that she quotes many secondary sources in the book, and many of them she doesn't translate into English. I unfortunately don't speak either French or German, and so I wasn't able to interpret much of the poetry and references she included.

Aside from those two things, the book is still an interesting, albeit occasionally slow, read. It was hard to really connect with her at the beginning, because she seems to view herself as some kind of high and mighty princess, and I just wasn't that insterested in her point of view. However, I think as the book progresses she opens up more about her own life, and you really start to understand how much she truly loves Africa, her workers, and the farm that she poured her heart into. She tells about the people she befriends and their adventures and quirks. She also does an amazing job describing the African scenery. I'd reccommend it, but keep in mind that it starts off slow.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
narges
Those who loved this book as I do should also read Beryl Markham's alleged autobiography [actually a biography] "West with the Night", and also "The Lives of Beryl Markham" by Errol Trzebinski [Norton]. And, if you can find it, "Silence will Speak: A study of the life of Denys Finch Hatton and his relationship with Karen Blixen", also by Trzebinski. Out of print and hard to find, but worth reading. PS: needless to say, "Letters from Africa" and a couple of the good biographies of Dinesen.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tamara altman
Out of my suitcase and into my hands, out of my hands and into my suitcase, out of my suitcase and into my hands--packing and unpacking the book I never see, its pages dark with with neglect, as, suitcase in hand--right hand, left hand, left hand, right hand--I travel to other places--this place, that place, that place, this place--reading other books--right page, left page, left page, right page--along trails of neglect marked out for longing native to my sense of proper tourist-etiquette. Then one day--long, long from now, far, far from here--responding to the rasp of a hasp, I look down and see my beard helplessly locked between the jaws of my suitcase. The beard is long and growing longer, deep and deeper into the suitcase's unknown (and therefore, perhaps, vast) interior. I unlock the suitcase--spreading its jaws apart (top jaw, bottom jaw, bottom jaw, top jaw)--reach in, rescue my bead and salvage the book, which latter, like the former, is covered with --slime? ooze? mud? No, shaving cream! Clutching the book with one hand (my right), removing my beard with the other (my left), I kick the suitcase (it moans--a sigh of regret? of longing?) and begin to read. The book's first words cut like a razor through hair proud to be cut: "I had a farm, in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills." I stop traveling, I return home--long, long from now, far, far from here.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
luigi antonio
It's amazing how each media gives a completely different feel of this fabulous book. Dinesen's book gets 5 stars. The movie gets 5 stars for telling the stories in the book as well as its beautiful handling of the relationship between Karen and Denys. The audiotape of the book would get 5 stars as well, if it was unabridged. Julie Harris gives me goosebumps (in a good way!)
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
batsheva knopfler
I got tired of this author about 150 pages into the 390 page book. Everything was so dreary and precious. She describes everything around her in such painfully sublime ways it's obvious she's desperately straining to redeem her dull, empty life.

Nobody who reviews this book or describes her life mentions her inability to form permanent relationships with men and to have children like most normal, heterosexual women. All her painfully empathic feelings for her servants, workers and domestic animals seem to me to be just poor substitutes for substantial, normal family relations. Being an emotional cripple doesn't necessarily give one special insight into anything other than what it's like to be an emotional cripple

Her insistence in seeing nobility everywhere was irritatating. Of course she sees nobility everywhere, she's a baroness!

And I fail to see what's so sublime or noble about being really literate and book-smart and being in constant pain. Just another scam to sell the degrading contradictions of civilization to gullible people.

But I plodded through every dreary, over-written page. It did give me some feeling for living in Africa but not enough to conpensate for the pain of reading the whole thing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
savannah kiez
Others have explained the book well enough. I won't repeat them here.

This book is for people who love to read; who love to linger over beautifully written sentences. Dinesen's writing has a beauty, an elegance, that is impossible to describe, but also impossible to ever forget. It is elegantly spare, elegant in its moderate pacing, and elegantly rich. No other author writes like Dinesen (Blixen). Read her to enrich your own life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
elias manortey
This book is not longer than other books, but it is not a fast read. It is not such that you cannot put it down. Yet it is the best book I have ever read. The language is precise and elegant in the way it makes you picture and feel the mood of the places and situations described. It is a book you will remember and read again.

Since she herself wrote the english and danish editions (i.e. the two are as she wanted them to be) my comments should apply equally well to the english edition.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
phil krogh
I loved this book. Read it long ago but still remember it. If you've never been to Africa you will feel like you have been and you will develop a love for the land and its people. She wrote about her life in such a compelling way it will not be forgotten. If one wants to leave their mark and make a statement about the complexities of life and love this book is the answer. Read it. You won't regret it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
brian crider
It's maybe one of the best books I've ever read, and I think it is because it's so human. It's not only that the small things that happen became important throughout its pages, but because the atmosphere that reflects the book transports you to a very real place where life is as crude and simple as everywhere else in the world.
I really had a great time reading it, and I will do it again without any doubt.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
darcy
Upon hearing of this book from catcher in the Rye I decided to read it on a whim. Isak Dinesen's love for the land that she called home shown through in every remarkable story she told about her farm. The smell, feel, look, and even life of the land was so wonderfuly painted that I lost myself in it. I found myself not wanting to stop reading, but dreading the approaching end of the book. A must read for those who love to travel even if it is only in their minds.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
caroline haenszel
Who could read, "I had a farm in Africa," without being intrigued immediately? Best opening line since "Call me Ishmael" in Moby Dick. Out of Africa makes one feel like a farmer in Africa much in the same way that "The Agony and the Ectasy" turns on into sculptor. Great read for all. I loved it and the movie, too.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
k nugent
She never mentions romance between her and denys in the book. Not one word. Yes, they flew together and talked and he stayed there but NOTHING of love.

Where is everyone getting this information that her and denys had a romance?!
I get that the movie embellished it for viewers but people in these reviews and websites are all saying the same thing.

But where does she write about it?!

Help me find it if you know!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
emma bahl
I love this book and the movie. I have watched the movie over and over many times. The one thing that strikes me most about the movie is that as hard as Karen searched for a man to love her, in the end, Farrah was the man who truly loved her. He tells her in the end and I think it is ironic that even then, she doesn't get it. But it is a great love story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
scott bishop
Blixen's prose is sheer poetry - her use of language is nothing less than honey on the tongue; read it out loud and you can feel the joy, sorrow, bitterness and simple pleasures Blixen experienced during her years in Africa. This one is a keeper.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ricky
I loved this book, and if you did too you will love West With the Night by Beryl Markham. If you can get your hands on the illustrated version, even better as it has fantastic photos of Africa from the 1920's. Karen tries admirably to describe Africa - Beryl knocks it out of the park. Absolutely enchanting prose, exciting adventures by air, wonderful atmosphere. Buy it today and be swept away.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alexander galant
Never wrote a woman a better book in my opinion, where epic, liric and ethic intermingle into the most beautiful prose ever written, only a spark away from poetry self. And not only art and beauty are comprised within the landscapes, characters and adventures, but also the hints of profound respect, gratitude and understanding of life and fellow partisans.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
candice
This was the first of many books I've read about Africa. At the time, I had a romanticized view of The Dark Continent, a naive view.
After doing some more research, I realize Karen Blixen's view was VERY romanticized. Many of her contemporaries thought her somewhat odd and out of touch with reality.
If you want a lyrically told story colored with emotion...this is for you.
If you're interested in Africa as it really was, read a selection of accounts by settlers who spent far more time, and ranged over a wider area.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
joshua arnett
I'm an avid reader, and this is my favorite book, I strongly recomend it. The writing is beautiful and magical, the description of the places and the people are so good that you can imagine being in the same room with Fitch-Hatton and Barckley.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
erin kuehn
The prose in this book is lush, the writing lyrical, even if it often rhapsodizes the ordinary, like many books white people write about Africa, where the landscape and animals are more important than the people. But at least Dinesen does devote time to people - her African servants, especially Farah, who she clearly comes to love, albeit in the way that one loves a lesser mortal.
Despite that, Dinesen's view on Africa is fundamentally racist, very much a product of its time. She incessantly compares Africans to animals. As an African, I read much of this book with disdainful amusement at so much ignorance masquerading as truth, and, less often, with empathy at her misguided earnestness. All her generalizations on the different tribes are silly - "all `Natives' have in them a strong sense of malice, a shrill delight in things going wrong." And her epiphanies are even sillier - when a `Native' shows himself to be a genius at western-style cooking, she thinks to herself: aha! perhaps Western civilization is divine and predestined.
Most shocking is that SHADOWS ON THE GRASS, written years after she left Africa, sounds more racist than OUT OF AFRICA. One would have thought that time and changing attitudes would have changed her views, and released her from the cage of the `times she lived in.' It is in SHADOWS ON THE GRASS that she propounds her theory of retarded mental growth in black people. Kikuyu children, she writes, stop developing mentally at age nine. But the irony is that she seems to be unaware that her stories of her Kikuyu servants - who come across as intelligent - do not support this theory.
At the end, she writes about the servants she has kept in touch with. Moving enough, but there was something about the insistent tone that made me wonder if this was a woman keen to present an `image of herself.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
laney
Well, ended up buying this book partly because of the movie, but also after reading a biography of Karen Blixen. Unfortunately, both the bio and the movie made it seem like this book would be more interesting than it is. I've read thousands (literally) of books in my lifetime, and probably gave up on only 3 or 4, this being one of them, giving up on page 236. This book reminds me mostly of Victorian novels, which are hard to read, though I must say I've managed to finish all of the few that I've read. The bio below was a very interesting read, however.

Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
fayroze abdel aleem
To have this book again in my hands, the very same edition I bought in San Francisco five years ago (never trust your friends on returning books you love) it is a pleasure for both the reading and the fact that the the store guys once again delivered!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
se n linehan
Underlying Blixen's tale of early 20th century Africa is the presumption that there was such a place; that is, a people or nation of peoples existed to which she went and from which she was forced to depart by economic circumstances. This presumption a priori allows her to reminisce about Africa the way it was or was supposed by her to have been.

As she observed, Africa was, in a sense, leaving her. Peoples were being moved around, new laws restricting tribal behavior were being passed, and the Ngong Hills were being laid out as a suburb of Nairobi. She was there, she professed, before all these changes began.

But was she? Was there a time and place, "Africa", or is this concept mainly her and the European view of the times? Blixen's Africa in fact was not any sort of original. Europeans had already produced vast changes: the tribes were by then being herded into reservations and European ways and goods prevailed. European reporters never reported Africa the way it was or had been. That information remained "dark."

The informational darkness is not entirely their fault. An observer always alters that which he sets out to observe. It is only a presumption that his observations are an approximation of the reality the way it would be without him observing it. That presumption is least justifiable in human affairs. We will never know what the original Masai or Kikuyu were like, or the exact configuration of flora and fauna among which they dwelled, or how they reacted to their environments or each other.

Similarly Blixen's little white light doesn't shine very far. We get some ethnic generalities as the vehicle of which she devises some stock identities, "the Kikuyu", "the Masai" and the like, which, on closer examination, turn out to be of European origin. Blixen manufactures masks and tries to get the Africans to wear them. Sociological and anthropological data are nearly entirely in deficit from these supposed traits. She probably is not alone in this process of inventing peoples. It accounts, perhaps, for why the Mau-mau insurrection caught the Europeans totally by surprise, as though you were to paint doodles on a sleeping man's body and he were to awake suddenly and demand angrily to know what you were doing.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
brecca mefford
I received my package and regrettably did not inspect it in a timely manner. Although I paid for a new book, the volume they sent was either used or was badly abused in storage. The paperback cover had been badly wrinkled and creased and then smoothed back in place. It is my fault that I did not discover the problem until Christmas Eve. Now the book will have to be given as-is. The only excuse I can make for my lack of inspection is that it never occurred to me that someone could "break" a book in transit.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
rachid
I was disappointed as it told very little about her relationship with Denys Finch-Haddon, and I had just read his biography TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN. I am now reading Isaak Denisen's biography, which I hope will be more interesting.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jan havlis
It's a priceless accounting of this woman's brief, but unforgettable years on a farm in Africa. She is herself a very unique individual not unlike Africa. I thought of Meryl Streep throughout the reading. And of course, Robert Redford. Enjoyable!!
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