Isak Dinesen: The Life and Imagination of a Seducer

Olga Anastasia Pelensky, Author Ohio University Press $34.95 (218p) ISBN 978-0-8214-0968-8
Best known for her autobiographical Out of Africa , Dinesen's odd life is the stuff of fiction. Her Danish father, a failed adventurer, braved the Nebraska frontier in the 1870s and evinced great sympathy for the plight of the Indians, an attitude which may have tilted his daughter to the tribes she met in East Africa, where she bought a farm. Shaken by her father's suicide, the dreamy, poetic youth who worshiped Bryon resolved to reinvent herself. This marvelous, compellingly frank biography lifts a veil of dissimulation off an elusive woman. After marrying her younger cousin, a high-spirited baron (having recently been in love with his twin brother), Dinesen was soon diagnosed with syphilis, infected by her philandering husband. According to Pelensky, who teaches English at Boston University, this emotionally devastating disease forced her into a Faustian ``pact with the nether powers'' that enabled her to write, or so Dinesen claimed. Fleeing from feelings of nonbeing, the megalomaniacal, at times suicidal baroness turned to writing for solace and self-definition. Pelensky draws on a wealth of previously untapped material to give novelistic immediacy to her account of Dinesen (1885-1962) as tortured soul and as creative artist, ``seducer'' of the imagination who was herself seduced by her preconceptions of ``natural'' Africans. Photos. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Paperback - 243 pages - 978-0-8214-1008-0
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