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Isak Dinesen: Biography & Books

Instructor: Natarielle Powell
Isak Dinesen? Karen Dinesen? Karen Blixen? Osceola? Pierre Andrézel? Will the real author please stand up? What is the name of the author who published a classic that was later an Oscar-winning film? Find the answer to this question and others like it in this lesson.

The Author, The Lady
isak 1

The Truth about the Name

Isak Dinesen is actually a pseudonym (false, or pen, name) that Karen Dinesen wrote under. She also wrote under the names Osceola and Pierre Andrézel. Many authors write under false names for different reasons. For example, Stephen King once wrote under the name Richard Bachman.

Dinesen's Childhood and Education

Dinesen was born in Rungsted, Denmark, on April 17, 1885. Her parents, Ingeborg and Wilhelm, were wealthy, upper-class Danes. Her father, who was also a writer, committed suicide when Karen was 10 years old.

She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and later all around the world, including in England, Switzerland, Italy, and France.

Dinesen in Africa
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Marriage and Life in Africa

In 1914, Karen Dinesen married her cousin, Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke. They moved to what is now Kenya and bought and maintained a coffee plantation. But Dinesen was more in love with Africa than with her husband. They divorced in 1921, but she remained in Africa and continued to manage the plantation for 10 years.

Her Writing

In 1937, Dinesen published her memoir, titled Out of Africa. The book tells the story of her life in Africa, her experiences with the coffee plantation, and her romantic life. She displays a strong connection and bond with the continent and the people. In 1985, Out of Africa was adapted into a film, which won an Oscar. One of her other stories, titled Babette's Feast, was filmed in 1987.

Her writings were penned in English and later translated into Danish. The fiction pieces combined elements of supernatural experiences and artistic concepts. This is evident in her novel The Angelic Avengers, which was published in 1944 under the pseudonym Pierre Andrézel.

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