Baden-Baden, 1875: an aristocratic spa town haven where Europe's elite might 'take the waters' and continue to perpetuate centuries of upper class tradition. Axel Leth, a young Danish nobleman, quietly performs his established role amidst ageing widows and retired generals. Enter Mizzie, a red-haired beauty, shy and demure in the custody of her governess, Miss Rabe. Axel quickly falls in love. But overhearing their tête-à-tête, he soon learns that their performance runs much deeper than the superficial customs of an upper-class watering-hole.
In this tale of servants, owners and the sham of the aristocratic world, Isak Dinesen unravels the deep-rooted desire of rulers to rule and the crushing burden of pretence, upbringing and social acceptance.
'And it happened when Martine or Philippa spoke to Babette that they would get no answers, and would wonder if she had even heard what they said ... Orshe would sit immovable on the three-legged kitchen chair, her strong hands in her lap and her dark eyes wide open, as enigmatical and fatal as a Pythia upon her tripod. At such moments, they realised that Babette was deep, and that in the soundings of her being there were passions, there were memories and longings of which they knew nothing at all.'
Babette's Feast is a sublime celebration of eating, drinking and sensual pleasure. In Isak Dinesen's life-affirming short story, two elderly sisters living in a remote, god-fearing Norwegian community take in a mysterious refugee from Paris one night - and are rewarded for their kindness with the most decadent, luxurious feast of a lifetime.
Romantics, adventurers, sensualists, melancholics and dreamers inhabit the bizarre and exotic world conjured up in these seven intricately interwoven tales, whose settings range from Tuscany and Elsinore, to a dhow on its way from Lamu to Zanzibar.
Proclaimed a masterpiece on its publication in 1934, this collection is shot through with themes of love and desire - from the maiden lady who now believes herself to have been the grand courtesan of her time, to the Count whose wife is so jealous that she cannot bear him to admire her jewels, and Lincoln Forsner, an Englishman whose search for a woman he met in a brothel leads him into many strange adventures.
In 1914 Karen Blixen arrived in Kenya with her husband to run a coffee farm. Instantly drawn to the land, she spent her happiest years there until the plantation failed. Karen Blixen was forced to return to Denmark in 1931 and it was there that she wrote this classic account of her experiences. A poignant farewell to her beloved farm, Out of Africa describes her strong friendships with the people of her area, her affection for the landscape and animals, and great love for the adventurer Denys Finch-Hatton.
Written with astonishing clarity and an unsentimental intelligence, Out of Africa portrays a way of life that has disappeared for ever.
ISAK DINESEN was the pen-name of Karen Blixen, who was born in Rungsted, Denmark in 1885. After studying art at Copenhagen, Paris and Rome, she married her cousin, Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke, in 1914. Together they went to Kenya to manage a coffee plantation. After their divorce in 1921, she continued to run the plantation until a collapse in the coffee market forced her back to Denmark in 1931.
Although she had written occasional contributions to Danish periodicals since 1905 (under the nom de plume of Osceola), her real début took place in 1934 with the publication of Seven Gothic Tales, written in English under her pen-name. Out of Africa (1937) is an autobiographical account of the years she spent in Kenya. Most of her subsequent books were published in English and Danish simultaneously, including Winter's Tales (1942) and The Angelic Avengers (1946), under the name of Pierre Andrézol. Among her other collections of stories are Last Tales (1957), Anecdotes of Destiny (1958), Shadows on the Grass (1960) and Ehrengard (1963). All of these books are published by Penguin.
Baroness Blixen died in Rungsted in 1962.