ISAK DINESEN/KAREN BLIXEN: The Work and the Life by Aage Henriksen


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Henriksen was a Kierkegaard scholar when he first met Karen Blixen. He became her literary confidant and personal friend for 11 years before her death. Herein, he presents both his literary analysis of her tales, often commented upon by Blixen herself in letters to Henriksen, and his reminiscences of his thralldom to her awesome persona and hopes that she will be his occult guide. Henriksen's earliest pages are stiff with academia but loosen as his various essays go by. It is an astounding picture that he gives. After a series of deep defeats in her life, Blixen engaged actively in writing, where at last she could control what was happening to her. What she discovered early on was that she did not want to reinforce bourgeois morality--and so made a pact with the Devil: ""she defined herself within the Christian tradition as a witch, and a serpent, and the friend of the Devil."" At times she literally turns into a witch before Henriksen's eyes, radiating light and energy, and once gives him a cripplingly stiff neck and head palsy that lasts five years. He had hoped she would lift his depression, but she did not. Meanwhile, his tale-analysis is convincing: ""In her tales, which are constructed with an almost inconceivable precision, there is always a deep structure that contradicts or works against the sensual beauty of the surface. . ."" Each page fascinates but is sometimes heavy going: still, caviar for Blixenites.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1988
Publisher: St. Martin's