January 24, 2015

Out of Africa

From a distinguished and privileged Danish family, Karen Dinesen had an unhappy childhood in Denmark. She was the second of three girls,  born April 17, 1885 and  named Karen Christentze (Tanne). She hated always being linked as a threesome and preferred  being different. She felt her father understood her, but blamed him for leaving and felt the hard times she had in life were because of his leaving her at a young age.

Bror Blixen and Tanne, as she was always called,  had known each other for a long time and at some point he suggested they marry. By then Karen had travel quite a bit on the Continent and was not about to stay all her life in Denmark, which would have been Bror's choice. By chance a friend returned from a safari in East Africa and raved about the landscape and way of life.  That was it. That is where they would go and run a coffee farm. And that is where they married in 1912. And that is where "Tanne" became the Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke, but remained "Tanne" to everyone. Bror became a big game hunter because he was not interested in the coffee farm,but was interested in being free to do what he wanted and particularly to carry on affairs.

The Baroness Karen von Blizen fell in love a few years after being left alone so often.  She and Bror had met Denys Finch Hatton at the Muthaiga Club in 1918, but  she didn't see him again until he returned from the war. He Bror and Karen spent a lot of time together, but  when Karen's marriage finally fell apart the love affair with Denys began and he moved in with her. Like Bror he too was a big game hunter. They liked each other and often were on safaris together.  The difference between the two men was significant. Bror was a short chunky rather unattrative man, Denys was tall, handsome elegant and sensitive. Their love was deep and mutual.

Hunting was not frowned upon in those days. It was a big business and for many English who lived there were trophy hunters. Fortunately today it is against the law. Yet the killing of elephants for their tusks is still being done and sold to those countries who will buy them. It is illegal to buy and sell ivory because of the onslought of killings over the decades to support the ivory trade.

 Karen developed a deep love for the Africa and the black Africans who worked on the farm and in the house. She wrote in her famous memoir "Out of Africa", "The air in Africa is more significant in the landscape than in Europe, it is filled with loomings and mirages, and it is in a way the real stage of activities. In the heat of the midday the air oscillates and vibrates like the strings of a violin, lifts up long layers of grass-land with thorn-trees and hills on it, and creates vast silvery expanses of water in the dry grass."

A far cry from Denmark
end of Part I