Sorrow-Acre Critical Overview
by Isak Dinesen

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Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

Critical reaction to Winter's Tales must be seen through two lenses: present and past Although she is now considered a major twentieth-century writer, Dinesen was, for a time, essentially forgotten. The revival of interest in her as a writer can be attributed in large part to Sydney Pollack's film version of Out of Africa. As a result, one cannot speak of a single critical reaction, but must instead consider two reactions: those of her contemporaries and those of the post-revival critics. Interestingly, each group seems to have seized upon very different facets of her writing as most worthy of comment. For the most part, earlier critics were more interested in her stylistic accomplishments, for example, Orville Prescott, writing in the New York Times, called her style "elaborately artificial, formal, suave, and beautiful," while William Sansom wrote in the Saturday Review that she "gives us tales of blood and doom and honor in the old grand manner." Later critics seem more interested in understanding the significance of her stories' content.

However, there are some points at which all critics seem to agree. Although they understandably see many different things in Winter's Tales, they are unanimous in their praise for the literary accomplishment the stories demonstrate. David Richter pointed out in the Journal of Narrative Technique that "Sorrow-Acre'" 'invokes many of the persistent themes that haunt Dinesen's work: the contrast between the cruel beauty of the ancient regime and the more prosaic humanitarian ethos of modem democracy that will inevitably displace it; the inextricable connections between men and the land they live on; the arcane routes by which men seek and find their destiny; the perverse and terrible costs which love extracts."