Out of Africa partakes of history, autobiography, and pastoral romance. It is a highly personal account of a period in the author’s life (roughly 1913 to 1931). Unlike authors of many memoirs or autobiographies, Dinesen is largely uninterested in facts, figures, dates, historical background, or politics. World War I and the Great Depression occur within the time frame of this book, but there is little direct mention of them although Dinesen occasionally discusses their effect on people’s lives. Although she spent nearly twenty years in Africa and knew hundreds of people, only a dozen or so names emerge in the narrative. The narrative itself tends to be a rather casual affair, for Dinesen tends to tell her story in episodes, rather than in lengthy sequences. Some episodes clearly overlap, like the accidental shooting of an African child, the subsequent trial, and the appearance of Chief Kinanjui, a Kikuyu tribesman, whose death is described in some detail later. The exact sequence and linkage of these events remains unclear, or rather unimportant from Dinesen’s point of view.
What does matter to Dinesen is the large tapestry of events; in fact, she uses the word “tapestry” many times to describe the dappled colors of greenery and sunlight under the canopy of the African forest. In short, she sees this African interlude with the eyes of a painter; characters and events tend to be grouped into episodes or pictorial clusters. The reader...
(The entire section is 446 words.)