Happy birthday, Karen Blixen

Karen Blixen (17 April 1885 – 7 September 1962), née Karen Christenze Dinesen, was a Danish author also known by her pen name Isak Dinesen.

Karen Blixen

Blixen is best known for Out of Africa, her account of living in Kenya, and one of her stories, Babette’s Feast, both of which have been adapted into highly-acclaimed, Academy Award-winning films. Prior to the release of the first film, she was noted for her Seven Gothic Tales, published in 1934. Unable to find an interested publisher in England or Denmark, she was first published by Random House in the United States.

“Man, my friends,is frail and foolish. We have all of us been told that grace is to be found in the universe. But in our human foolishness and short-sightedness we imagine divine grace to be finite. For this reason we tremble. We tremble before making our choice in life, and after having made it again tremble in fear of having chosen wrong. But the moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite. Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude. Grace, brothers, makes no conditions and singles out none of us in particular; grace takes us all to its bosom and proclaims general amnesty. See! that which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us. Ay, that which we have rejected is poured upon us abundantly. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss have kissed one another!”

— Isak Dinesen (Babette’s Feast)

A few years ago I read a lot of Isak Dinesen and she really is a great writer. Although Danish, she wrote in English–a fact that I find amazing. You can read more about her here. I highly recommend Judith Thurman’s 1983 biography of her, Isak Dinesen, as well.

This would also be an appropriate day to watch either of the above-mentioned movies. Alas, I think I only have the VHS version of Out of Africa! Oh well, maybe I will re-visit her Gothic Tales instead.