“Karen Blixen: The woman’s strength behind a male pen name”

23 September, 2014

Better known by her male pseudonym Isak Dinesen, the Danish writer Karen Blixen (1885-1962) had a fascinating life plenty of writing. Hemingway, who wasn’t good at giving compliments said he would have been happy if she would have won the Nobel Prize in literature instead of himself.

Karen Blixen had a farm in Africa where she used to grow coffee, under the Ngong hills. That’s something you probably already know thanks to the Sydney Pollack’s movie from the 80’s. She failed both romantically and personally there but her willpower made her recover and go back to her country. She started publishing her texts in the 30’s under a few different male pseudonyms.

Those were not good years for women although somehow the female aristocrats accepted Karen among them. Fortunately time gives everyone the correct place and nowadays Karen is considered as one of the most valuable and best female writers in history.

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Her memories from Africa are what she better transmitted. Maybe a little excessive romanticism or idealized (at least in the big screen), but the baroness also was an excelent storyteller, not only over paper but out loud in every social event she atended.

Everyone was fascinated with her fragile body, her turbans and he reyes on make-up with black kohl. Leyends around her also helped people to be interested in her. It was said she only ate oysters and champagne, although she made clear she only ate products that would help her body. “I’m old and I’m eating whatever I want”, she used to reply.

Ill with syphilis since she got married with the baron Bror Blixe-Finecke, she couldn’t have children and her life was her imagination and the literatura. She was a huge Shakespeare’s lover, so much that she confessed her favourite book was One Thousand and One Nights. As a very good dreamer, she always kept the dream of coming back to Nairobi. The II World War cut that wish short.


The strength of her spirit probably lives in her lack of love: her marriage was broken soon and her intense relationship with Denys Finch Hatton (Brittish) had a terrible end when he die don a flight accident.

Karen Blixen’s style is not similar to any of her contemporaries’, maybe because her Scandinavian origins were shaped by her life in Africa. The weight of the past is one of the keys to understand both her personal and professional life.

Her very interesting mailing, published a few years ago, has letters to her loyal servant back in Kenya. She told him on those words how much she would’ve liked coming back to her house only to talk to him about old times, those times when she had a farm far far away…


@Esther Ginés




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