Karen Blixen

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Karen Blixen (1885-1962)

All sorrows can be borne
if you tell a story about them.

Karen Blixen

you can also write a haiku ...

Karen Blixen
in full Karen Christence Dinesen, Baroness Blixen-Finecke - wrote as Isak Dinesen, Pierre Andr├ęzel, other pseudonyms Tania Blixen, Osceola, etc.
Read her short biography here.


Peony a kigo

The peony does not normally grow in Kenya.

However, Karen Blixen, in her famous book "Out of Africa" tells the story (if I remember it well) that, when she moved from Denmark to Kenya, she took a peony tuber with her and planted it, hoping against hope that it would take. With a lot of care and daily attention, take it did, and after a while, a beautiful flower formed.

Karen Blixen cut the flower and enjoyed it in her house for many days. But the plant withered and failed and never produced another flower. It was only later that an expert told her that the first flower of a peony plant must on no account be cut -- indeed, such cutting would end the life of the plant... Karen Blixen, in cutting the flower, had destroyed her own most cherished peony!

I know Karen Blixen's garden well, it is one of my favourite haunts in Nairobi. And when I sit there and reflect, the peony often comes to mind.

Kazuri Beads, a wonderful women's business very close to Karen Blixen's old farm house :

The women have even created a bead called "peony" in her honour :

Kazuri has been able to expand while still retaining its philanthropic roots. The workshop is still located on a portion of the farm once owned by Karen Von Blixen, of 'Out of Africa' fame, at the base of the Ngong Hills outside Nairobi. Kazuri means small and beautiful in Swahili, the language of Kenya.

Still, the peony is no kigo in Kenya...

Isabelle Prondzynski.


No jungle in Kenya -- too dry a country.
But Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai is trying to save what little remains of the primal forests around Mount Kenya and the Aberdare Mountains. Karen Blixen's home lies "at the foot of the Ngong Hills", as the book so dramatically opens, and the garden has beautiful vistas -- using "borrowed landscapes" just as the gardens of Kyoto do!

Isabelle Prondzynski


Karen Blixen Museum

This museum was originally the home of Karen Blixen, who came to Kenya from Denmark in the early part of this century; the present museum site is at the heart of the larger coffee plantation run by Blixen between 1914 and 1931. The house and surrounding land was donated by the Danish government to Kenya at independence; the house was restored by the Danish government and was used during the filming of Out of Africa, which immortalised Karen Blixen's book by the same name. The Museum was opened to the public in 1986.

Karen Blixen Museum
Curator: Josphene Thagwa
P.O. Box 40658, Nairobi
Tel: 254-2-882779


Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) Out of Africa

This has become something of a cult book, particularly in the wake of the movie. First published in 1937, it describes Blixen's life (Dinesen was a nom de plume) on her Ngong Hills coffee farm between the wars. Read today, it seems to hover uncertainly between contemporary literature and historical document. It's an intense read - lyrical, introspective, sometimes obnoxiously and intricately racist, but worth pursuing and never superficial, unlike the film.

"White people, who for a long time live alone with Natives, get into the habit of saying what they mean, because they have no reason or opportunity for dissimulation, and when they meet again their conversation keeps the Native tone."
(from "Out of Africa")

Related words

***** Poetry and Literature of Kenya

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