Daguerreotypes, and Other Essays (Magill's Literary Annual 1980)
The Baroness Karen Blixen was born as Karen Christentze Dinesen in Rungsted, Denmark, daughter of a Danish officer who also served as a leftist member of parliament and wrote books on hunting as well as his military experiences. He committed suicide when she was ten, causing Karen to experience a traumatically unhappy childhood. She came to idealize her dead father and to imitate his pattern of life by uniting adventurous action with a writing career. Her mother, who came from a wealthy mercantile family, took Karen to her own mother’s home after the Baron’s death, and insisted that her daughter be reared in the Unitarian faith, which is unusual in Denmark.
Karen was largely brought up by governesses and taught fluent English and French, literature, art, and history. In 1904, she studied English at Oxford; in 1910, painting in Paris. In 1912, she lived in Rome with a cousin and conceived a lifelong love for Italy, in which she was to set many of her stories.
In 1913, Karen became engaged to a cousin, the Swedish Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke. An uncle persuaded them to emigrate to Kenya, and they bought a six-thousand-acre coffee farm near Nairobi in 1914, shortly before their marriage. They were divorced in 1921, whereupon she managed the plantation alone, with her ex-husband preferring the life of a big-game hunter. In 1931, the...
(The entire section is 1690 words.)
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