Isak Dinesen

April 17, 1885:

Isak Dinesen is born

Karen Dinesen, Baroness Blixen-Finecke, better known by her pen name Isak Dinesen, is born in Rungsted, Denmark. Dinesen’s memoir, Out of Africa, helped demystify the Dark Continent for millions of readers.

Dinesen was born to an upper-class Danish family. Her father committed suicide when Dinesen was 10, ending the happiest period of her childhood. She began writing plays and stories and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, where she developed an interest in art.

When her family sent her to Oxford to study English, she rebelled and went to Paris and Rome to study painting. In 1914, she married her cousin Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke, and the couple moved to what was then British East Africa (now Kenya), where they owned and operated a coffee plantation. While the unhappy marriage dissolved in 1921, Dinesen fell passionately in love with Africa and remained to manage the plantation for a decade. In Africa, she was a lively and extravagant hostess, fond of throwing lush dinner parties for her friends-parties which laid the basis for her 1949 story, Babette’s Feast, which was filmed in 1987.

Drought and a crash in coffee prices forced Dinesen, penniless, back to Denmark in 1931. She began publishing short story collections with Seven Gothic Tales (1934), followed by Out of Africa in 1937, which brought her recognition and respect. She published several other story collections before her death, in 1962.

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Review: Being Franklin Zebb ~ Nyla Naseer

BeingFranklin Zebb’s life had never been straightforward. 

From a very early age it became clear that Franklin was different and appeared to have a somewhat charmed ability to ‘get lucky’ in all sorts of different and mind-bending situations, from launching a global multi-player computer games business as a teenager, to being an international athlete, a strategic subversive and an innovative media mogul with a penchant for investigative journalism and ‘helping deserving causes’ that might appear, at first sight, a little unusual or even dubious. He had certainly made an impact.

There comes a point in every man’s life when it is time to take stock and think back over one’s achievements. After an exhaustive few decades, Franklin had reached this point and decided to settle into a hermit-guru lifestyle, living in a cave in the Yorkshire Dales, writing his first book and meditating, whilst hosting various friends from his past who popped in now and again. 

Predictably, he attracted a faithful group of followers and curious observers, with whom he shared the remarkable stories of his life, thus far. This book is an account of Franklin’s year as a hermit-guru and his own recollection of the extraordinary experience of being Franklin Zebb.

The story sees Franklin succeeding, more by luck than judgement, in some key themes of social and cultural change of the past thirty plus years and rightfully claiming the title of ‘Master of the Almost Believable’.

This is a funny, clever, satirical book which draws on naivety and parody whilst it tumbles along!

4 Thumbs-Up

This is the third published work by this Author, and the first in the Franklin Zebb ‘Chronicles’

Franklin Zebb is an amalgamation of Walter Mitty and Richard Branson and, although this book is first person narrative it manages to build a very deep and precise look at the character of Zebb.  Through the main leads own words we are taught what made him who he is today, and what he thinks will take him to where he needs to be tomorrow.  This character is so personable that the reader cannot do anything but like him, and his naiveté.  Using Zebb as a mouthpiece, the Author brings to life all the people her character meets on his haphazard journey through his history, and compels them to keep reading on until the end.  You cannot help but admire Zebb; complete with his total lack of political correctness at times.

The Author describes the locations in her book very well and, being from Yorkshire, I was able to revisit places that I haven’t been to in a long time; but this isn’t the only locale that the Author takes us to, in this entertaining little novel the reader also travels to places as far apart as Africa and Alabama.  It’s a book that, to review in-depth, would mean writing spoilers and I feel that would be a disservice to the Author who has penned this great little story.  If the Author decides to go ahead and write more about Zebb, I will definitely be reading them, and I think that in time she will give James Thurber a good run for his money.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone that is looking for a delightful and hilarious read.  It is full of satire, wit and, at times, a glorious lack of political correctness that some may not like.  Regardless of this, this light-hearted and extremely readable book will definitely be able to get a conversation started amongst all those who have read it, so I feel that it would be a good choice for book clubs that are looking for something completely different and off the wall.

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