Nick Name: Tanne
Birthday: April 17, 1885
Died At Age: 77
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke, Isak Dinesen, Tania Blixen
Born Country: Denmark
Born in: Rungsted, Denmark
Famous as: Writer
Spouse/Ex-: Bror von Blixen-Finecke
father: Wilhelm Dinesen
mother: Ingeborg Dinesen
siblings: Anders Runsti Dinesen, Ellen Dahl, Inger de Neergaard, Thomas Dinesen
Died on: September 7, 1962
place of death: Rungsted, Denmark
Cause of Death: Anorexia Nervosa
awards: Danish Critics Prize for Literature
Tagea Brandt Rejselegat
Ingenio et Arti
De Gyldne Laurbær
Who was Karen Blixen?
Karen Blixen was a Danish author who is known for her works in Danish and English. She wrote under several pen names too, like Isak Dinesen, Osceola and Pierre Andrézel. Her best works are ‘Out of Africa’ and a story from one of her books, ‘Babette’s Feast’, and both became Academy Award winning movies. Though born in an affluent household, she had a troubled family life as a child. She developed an early interest in writing and married a baron, before moving to Africa, in hopes of starting a coffee farm there. But the venture proved to be more difficult than she had imagined. She struggled to run her coffee farm and fell in love with an Englishman when her philandering husband divorced her. Suffering heavy financial losses in Africa, she returned to Denmark and took up writing in earnest. She published several notable works thereafter and attained worldwide fame. She won several prestigious awards and even has two museums named after her. She suffered various illnesses throughout her life and passed away from complications of the same.
Childhood & Early Life
Karen Blixen was born on April 17, 1885, to a wealthy mother, Ingeborg Westenholz, and a writer and army officer father, Wilhelm Dinesen, in the Rungstedlund manor, Denmark. She had two sisters and two brothers.
In 1895, when she was nine, her father committed suicide after learning that he had fathered a child out of wedlock.
In 1902, she went to Copenhagen’s Charlotte Sode’s Art School. Around 1905, she began to publish fiction in Danish periodicals under the pen name ‘Osceola’.
In 1906, she completed her studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Thereafter, she spent time in Sweden, with her cousin’s family, the Blixen-Fineckes, where she met her future husband.
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In 1912, on the suggestion of their uncle, Aage Westenholz, Karen Blixen and her fiancé, Bror, decided to go to Africa to start a coffee farm.
In 1913, she left for Kenya after Bror. In 1914, they established their first farm in M’Bagathi, Kenya and ‘The Karen Coffee Company’ was established by their uncle, Westenholz. The First World War broke out soon and the farm suffered many tragedies.
In 1916, they purchased M’Bogani, a larger farm in Ngong Hills, even though it was unsuitable for coffee cultivation due to its high elevation. She hired the local ‘Kikuyu’ tribe to work on the farm since Bror often went away on safaris leaving her to manage the farm.
Between 1917 and 1918, her farm suffered more tragedies. In despair, she began to write a book in English, thinking that it would be more profitable.
In 1921, their uncle handed over the management of the farm to her after dismissing Bror from that position. By 1931, her coffee farm had suffered heavy financial losses. So, she returned to Denmark and began her writing career.
From 1933 to 1958, she published several successful books and achieved worldwide fame.
In 1960, despite severe illness after her return to Denmark, she wrote her last book based on her experiences in Africa.
In 1934, her first book ‘Seven Gothic Tales’ was published under the pseudonym ‘Isak Dinesen’. It achieved instant fame when it was featured on ‘Book-of-the-month Club’.
In 1937, he second and most famous book ‘Out of Africa’ was published, firmly establishing her name in the literary world.
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In 1944, she published her fourth book ‘The Angelic Avengers’ under the ‘Pierre Andrezel’ pseudonym. It was selected for the ‘Book-of-the-Month Club’ too.
In 1958, she wrote another story collection ‘Anecdotes of Destiny’ that also contained the famous story, ‘Babette’s Feast’.
In 1960, her book ‘Shadows on the Grass’ was published and selected for the ‘Book-of-the-Month Club’ again.
From 1962 to 81, several of her posthumous works like ‘Ehrengard’, ‘Letters from Africa’, etc. were published.
Awards & Achievements
In 1939, she received the women in arts prize, ‘Tagea Brandt Rejselegat'.
From 1949 to 1959, she received many honours like ‘Danish Holberg Medal’, ‘Ingenio et Arti’ medal, ‘Henrik Pontoppidan Memorial Foundation Grant’, etc.
In 1985, her book ‘Out of Africa’ was adapted into an ‘Academy Award’ winning movie of the same name. The ‘Asteroid 3318 Blixen’ was also named in her honour that year.
In 1987, one of her stories, ‘Babette’s Feast’, was adapted into another Academy Award winning movie.
In 1980 and 1996, Danish postage stamps were issued in her honour.
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In 1991, her Rungstedlund home was opened as ‘The Karen Blixen Museum’.
In 1997, the Danish 50-krone banknote featuring her portrait was released.
In 1986, the original farmhouse where she lived in Kenya was opened as ‘Karen Blixen Museum’.
Family & Personal Life
In 1912, when his twin brother, Hans, rejected her advances, Karen got engaged to Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke.
In 1914, Karen Blixen married Bror in Mombasa, Kenya, and came to be known as Baroness Blixen.
In 1915, she was diagnosed with syphilis which she had contracted from her philandering husband, and had to go to Denmark for specialist treatment.
By 1919, her marriage seemed to have run its course and she fell in love with English army officer, hunter and safari operator, Denys Finch Hatton.
Between 1920 and 25, Bror requested a divorce from her; they separated and finally divorced.
From 1926 to 31, she embarked on a long love affair with Hatton, but it ended with his sudden death in a plane crash in 1931.
She left Africa with anaemia, jaundice, arsenic poisoning, panic attacks, etc.
From 1946-56, she underwent a lumbar sympathectomy and a surgery for stomach ulcer.
On September 7, 1962, Karen Blixen died of malnutrition at Rungstedlund, Denmark.
Karen Blixen was twice considered for the ‘Nobel Prize in Literature’. She was also a talented artist; her most well-known artworks being ‘Young Kikuyu Girl’ and ‘Abdullahi Ahamed’.