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Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller Paperback – October 15, 1995
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“This, like the best biographies, is a book in which the reader can live.” ―Margaret Drabble, The New York Times Book Review
“Splendid, inestimably valuable . . . I cannot imagine that it will be supplanted. Right now it is the essential book on Isak Dinesen.” ―Chicago Tribune Book World
“Absorbing biography . . . This is a gothic tale worthy of the author of Seven Gothic Tales.” ―Victoria Glendinning, The Washington Post Book World
About the Author
Judith Thurman, critic and biographer, won the National Book Award and two foreign literary prizes for her work. The author of Cleopatra's Nose, to be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in October 2007, and Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette, she is a staff writer at The New Yorker and lives in New York City.
Top Customer Reviews
The fault is not in the biography. It's a fascinating life, and it was good to have the blanks filled in as far as her childhood, and what happened in Africa, the continent to which she spoke and which spoke back to her. The popularity of her work, the American reaction to it, I found this all good reading. But you know, eventually, she turned into quite the old megalomaniac. Thurman shows us where it all came from. (spoilers ahead) Dinesen had always believed that she was special, and was infuriated by her family's insistence on equality, fairness and calm. She felt restrained by it, stifled, dismissed. She felt that the loss of her father was uniquely hers, that it mattered less in the lives of her siblings that their father killed himself. She wanted to somehow own or claim that.
And sadly, the circumstances of her erotic life seem to have warped her terribly. She had syphilis, and had to live carefully and chastely even while madly in love (though there is a question regarding this as far as her relationship with Finch-Hatten). I can see how this would do a woman in, I really can. She spoke of syphilis as both the price and the source of her gift, a horrible bargain with the devil that made her a genius at telling tales. But the cost was high, and the damage was deep.
The warping took various ugly shapes as she aged. She tried to usurp her sisters and brothers in the eyes of their children, found her nieces and nephews disappointing in their love of their parents.Read more ›
I love the movie as well, bought it on video about a year ago and have watched it many times. Yes, Redford is not a Dennis F.Hatton type but he's perfect. (In '86 I thought he was utterly miscast, despite being already then a huge Redford fan!)
Thurman took seven years to write this bio, and even learned Danish in the process. She truly cares about her subject and thankfully takes her time. Dinesen comes fully alive in this book, a rare accomplishment for biographers.
If you go to Copenhagen, take the train north along the coast (20 min. from the Central Station), get off at the beautiful, small, old Rungsted Station and walk down to Rungstedlund (about a mile). It was there that Karen Dinesen, later Blixen, was born and raised. She returned in 1931 from her farm in Africa, and began writing her first collection of tales, Seven Gothic Tales, published in 1934 in English and in Danish (in her own translation) a year later. She "only" wrote seven books for the next thirty years, but oh, what books. It is indeed quality, not quantity that counts with art.
In 1991 Blixen's house was opened as lovely museum with a small tasteful book store with books by and about Blixen (she is always referred to as Karen Blixen in Denmark), and a very nice and quiet small cafe. Upstairs is a wonderful exibit about her life, including seperate rooms with many books from her private collection.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating woman who transcends many nontradional valuesPublished 26 days ago by Margaret Connolly
Scholarly and beautifully written. Thurman is a match for her brilliant and charismatic subject.Published 2 months ago by MJN
well researched from karen blixen's childhood and on. there is an undercurrent constantly telling you the author feared displeasijg karen blixen;
therefore the story seems... Read more
I'm enjoying as well as learning every every moment of it. Excellent literary biography.Published 14 months ago by Marcia Holtzman