Upon her return to her home country, she began writing in earnest. In , Seven Gothic Tales, a collection of stories she had written in English, was published. A surprise success by a Danish author in the U. It set the stage for the thematic character of her fiction, which was an amalgam of the real and the mythic, and incorporating elements of Persian and West Indian exotica. Storytelling is actually a part of some of her stories — that is, stories are told within the stories; and characters are sometimes archetypes rather than fully fleshed-out people. Karen Blixen adopted a very free approach to the traditional Gothic genre, but she worked within a number of its parameters.
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Share via Email Isak Dinesen in , wearing a coat made from the skin of a leopard she killed in Africa. She might be Dorothea Viehmann , the storyteller who provided the Grimms with a valuable cache of fairy tales, or one of the many nameless women who for centuries circulated tales in spinning rooms, nurseries, and before family hearths. She chose this identity carefully: it is one that seams her work.
In her memoir, Out of Africa , which is arranged much like a series of short stories, she reaches back to Boccaccio when she writes: "I have always thought I might have cut a figure at the time of the plague of Florence. Her stories utilise myth, enchantment and the lurid subject matter of the gothic incest, murder, witchcraft to explore philosophy, morality and questions of identity. Written mostly between the s and s she died in and always set in the 19th century or before, they are involute creations, packed tightly with mysteries and potential interpretations: readers have to work to detect their full meaning.
Some critics, Lionel Trilling among them , describe Dinesen as if her stories ape the style of oral storytelling. They are "told rather than written", Trilling claims, but this misrepresents them. As Robert Langbaum notes in his study of Dinesen, "her stories cannot — in spite of her claims to the contrary — be classed with the sort of stories you can tell orally".
They are simply too complex, in terms of both their construction and the literary references and quotations — explicit and obscure — they contain. It opens in , on a dhow sailing from Lamu to Zanzibar, with a European traveller telling two Arabs a story that took place in the Swiss Alps 20 years before. Dinesen employs this method again and again, building nested sequences of stories. This structural intricacy couples with extensive borrowing and interpolation from other texts. As with Borges, familiarity with the texts Dinesen references is not essential, but adds another layer of richness to the experience of reading her.
To read Dinesen is to play a game of narratives And it was a game, of sorts, that resulted in one of the peaks of her art.
The story has its origin in a 17th-century folk tale from Jutland, which in just words describes a task set an old woman whose son is condemned to die. The lord of the manor tells her that if she can mow a rye field in a single day a three-day task for a man her son will be spared. The woman completes the task, but dies from exhaustion shortly afterwards.
Dinesen encountered the story in a version by Paul la Cour, published in , but while he accentuated the despotism of the lord, Dinesen recasts the story as a clash between the old order and the new age of democracy.
In opposition to the nameless old lord, who "incarnated the fields and woods, the peasants, cattle and game of the estate", she places his pointedly named nephew Adam, the representative of Enlightenment ideals. These narratives run in parallel, combining in the "twined and twisted design, complicated and mazy" that Adam considers life to be. As the evolution of Sorrow-Acre shows, Dinesen sees all stories — high- and lowbrow, novels, poetry, plays and folk tales — as a storehouse from which to draw, adapt and extrapolate.
Stories, for her, exist in a position beyond the everyday, and she conceives of the storyteller as a priestly figure.
Those who tell stories within her tales often transmogrify, as if the act involves opening oneself to some invasive power. When a man begins a story in A Consolatory Tale, "he was changed, the prim bailiff faded away, and in his seat sat a deep and dangerous little figure, consolidated, alert and ruthless: the story-teller of all the ages". But it is possible for humans to influence or even transcend their stories — indeed, done well it is one of the most admirable and heroic acts anyone can perform.
This belief powers The Deluge at Norderney, which, more than any other Dinesen story, asserts the primacy of storytelling. A cardinal and three aristocrats are stranded in a hayloft as floodwaters rise over the German countryside, waiting for the dawn and possible rescue. Each tells a story, or has a story told about them, which reveals the distance between who they are and how they are perceived.
But Dinesen does not treat this as folly; rather she applauds their imaginative acts as bold examples of self-making. In his essay The Storyteller, Walter Benjamin described storytelling as "the ability to exchange experiences", but here Dinesen goes further: storytelling can, in its own right, generate experience and create new realities. As the floodwaters overwhelm the land — as what was solid becomes fluid — so story overwhelms fact.
One speech in particular embodies the approaches she took throughout a body of work that is, for all its complicated interrelations with other works, unique: "Be not afraid of absurdity; do not shrink from the fantastic. Within a dilemma, choose the most unheard-of, the most dangerous, solution.
Be brave, be brave!
[PDF] Winters Tales Book by Isak Dinesen Free Download (320 pages)
The group boards the ship and begins to sail back, but encounter a group of peasants trapped in a granary on their way back. While stuck in the granary, the group exchanges stories. Maersk describes how he came to be at Norderney: as a teenager, he traveled from the small town of Assens to Copenhagen, where he befriended the wealthy Baron von Gersdorff over their mutual love of botany. Miss Nat-og-Dag then relates the story of the Countess Calypso: the daughter of the poet Count Seraphina, who disliked femininity, she was brought up in an abbey entirely among men, where she was ignored by everyone around her. At sixteen, she decides to chop off her own breasts, but stops herself at the last second upon seeing a painting of nymphs in the reflection of a mirror. Calypso escapes from the abbey and walks through the night, happening upon the house of Miss Nat-og-Dag, who is on her way to Norderney. At this point, Miss Nat-og-Dag convinces the young duo to marry.
A brief survey of the short story: Isak Dinesen
Hay que tener en cuenta que cuando Isak Dinesen empleaba ese verbo, contar to tell , se estaba refiriendo de manera exclusiva a la actividad de contar oralmente, de narrar de viva voz. Es la historia misma lo que me interesa, y la manera de contarla". O bien: "Con el pasado Dicho de otro modo, el destino en tanto que historia e historia "contable" , en tanto que elemento configurador de una persona en un entorno determinado, a la manera shakespeariana. Es posible ver a los personajes de una historia verdadera, claros y luminosos y situados en un plano superior, y al propio tiempo que no parezcan humanos, e incluso inspiren un cierto temor. Pero es un producto humano.