On this date in 1885, Karen Dinesen, later known under the pen-name Isak Dinesen, was born in Denmark to a well-to-do Unitarian family. She attended the Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen, and studied in four European countries. She published several short stories in 1907. She married her cousin, Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke, in 1914, and lived with him on a coffee plantation in Kenya. After they divorced in 1921 (he famously had given her syphilis, which she recovered from), Dinesen ran the plantation herself until 1931, when she returned to Denmark.
Those years are chronicled in her famous book, Out of Africa (1937), whose accounts of her adventurous struggles captured the public imagination. A film of the same name, directed by Sydney Pollack in 1985, was loosely based on the book. Her other books include Seven Gothic Tales (1934), several collections of short stories, and two other autobiographical works written after she returned many years later to Africa. Anecdotes of Destiny includes “Babette’s Feast,” originally written for a magazine, which also became the basis of a movie. Dinesen wrote in English, then translated her writings back into Danish. D. 1962.
“Africa, amongst the continents, will teach it to you: that God and the Devil are one, the majesty coeternal, not two uncreated but one uncreated, and the Natives neither confounded the persons nor divided the substance.”
~ Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa (1937)