#CBR8 Review #24

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen)

Ever since I’ve begun Marie Kondo-ing my bookshelves, I have discovered plunder that I never knew was there. I have also discovered headscratchers that made me angry I moved them from my parents’ house to my MA program, to my first house with The Chancellor, to our current apartment. All throughout my reading of Out of Africa, I could not help thinking, “I moved this book? TWICE??” [possibly more, dear reader, but I refuse to think about it]

As you can tell from my previous paragraph, I did not like this book. And, worse, I don’t remember much of anything from this book. I have no idea how to write this review, really. There is a truly lovely story about a bushback antelope whom Karen Blixen (Dinesen’s real name) nurses back to health and then crosses paths with over the years. But other than that, there was glad-handing with other white colonists, wonderment over African way of life (which got old real fast), and a LOT of hunting.

I realize that colonizing other lands was a historical and cultural movement, but it’s hard to read about in 2016. There was not a sense that Blixen was complicit in overtaking a culture, but instead refining and shaping it to be more like hers. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to have the self-awareness that we find necessary when we talk about these things, but it was a startling read in this current cultural moment. While I can’t say I enjoyed the book or remembered it…it was an experience? I can say this: Blixen/Dinesen is a masterful writer, and her craft is worth reading. For the record, I recommend Anecdotes of Destiny, which is a lovely collection of short stories, including one of my all-time favorites, “Babette’s Feast” (the movie adaptation is incredible).

Speaking of movies, how is Out of Africa? Will it fill me with towering rage? Indifference? Is it better than the book? I need to know before I invest time in it.



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