book review, Dinesen, Kierkegaard


In the inter-and post-war periods, the Danish baroness Karen Blixen published, in English, several story collections and the autobiographical novel Out of Africa in the United States under the nom de plume Isak Dinesen. These same works appeared soon aft er under her legal name in her own Danish translations in Denmark. During the same period, works by Dinesen’s deceased countryman Søren Kierkegaard were being translated into English and published in the United States by Princeton University Press. No longer merely “world-famous in Denmark” (as the saying goes), Kierkegaard became a shibboleth for anxious intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic. If the Danish philosopher was praised as a prophet, whose prolepsis of the present age proved to be uncanny, then Dinesen was valued for directing her gaze in the opposite direction, away from the horror of the present and towards the refinement and noblesse oblige of the previous centuries. Both authors provided their reader with something of essential importance; the one explained modernity; the other offered an escape from it—if ever so brief