Out of Africa Critical Overview
by Isak Dinesen

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Critical Overview

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Isak Dinesen gained worldwide acclaim for her literary achievements. The autobiographical Out of Africa enjoyed popular and critical success, especially in the United States and Britain. Most reviewers applauded her lyrical style.

Katherine Woods, in her 1938 article for The New York Times Book Review, finds Dinesen's prose in Out of Africa "without redundancies, bared to its lines of strength and beauty. There was no fat on it, and no luxuriance anywhere, she says of her African landscape; so in the book there is no sentimentality, no elaboration."

As a result, Woods concludes that Dinesen presents a clear vision of Africa, which "lives through all this beautiful and heart-stirring book because of that simple and unsought-for fusion of the spirit, lying behind the skill which can put the sense of Africa's being into clear, right, simple words, through the things and people of the farm."

Furthermore, Woods asserts:

In this personal record out of Africa, so sincere and natural, so direct and clear, there is that penetration, restraint, simplicity and precision which, together, mark the highly civilized mind, and that compassion, courage and dignity which mark civilization, in the best sense, in the human heart. This writing is poignant and exquisite, it has an echoing reticence, it is swift in profundity or insight or tenderness or irony. And no description of this book, highly as it may praise its solid substance, can in itself do justice to its effortless, expressive, wholly individual beauty of form, or even list the evocations and suggestions that lie within, or are touched by, its very simplicity.

In his article in the Saturday Review of Literature, Hassoldt Davis describes her style "as cadenced, constrained, and graceful as we have today." In the same review, however, Davis finds fault with the book's structure, insisting that "the tale of increasing tragedy which fills the latter half of the book seems not quite so successful as her earlier chapters."

Another criticism of the book is that it presents a romantic colonialist portrait of Africa and its people. However, some critics disagree....

(The entire section is 531 words.)