This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for April 17, 2017: Tall Girl Running

Apr. 17, 2017: birthday: Isak Dinesen

It’s the birthday of Isak Dinesen (books by this author), born Karen Blixen on a rural estate called Rungsted near Copenhagen, Denmark (1885). She came from a wealthy family of landowners and writers. As a girl, she loved listening to stories about Danish mythology. She started writing at an early age, and one of the first stories she published was about a woman who has a love affair with a ghost.

She and her husband then moved to Kenya, where they started a coffee plantation. She fell in love with Africa, and she said, “The grass was me, and the air, the distant visible mountains were me, the tired oxen were me.” But she and her husband separated in 1925. Alone and unhappy on the coffee plantation, she said, “I began in the evenings to write stories, fairy-tales and romances, that would take my mind a long way off, to other countries and times.” After a swarm of locusts and a drought, she finally had to sell the farm to a local developer.

But just as she was leaving Africa for good, Dinesen sent some of her stories to a publisher, and they were published as the collection Seven Gothic Tales (1934). The book was full of wild, magical stories about such things as a group of people telling jokes while trying to survive a flood, and a woman who exchanges her soul with an ape.

Dinesen wrote, “Truth is for tailors and shoemakers. … I, on the contrary, have always held that the Lord has a penchant for masquerades.”