What exactly is the problem with Out of Africa by Karen Blixen ?
I just can't seem to finish it. And this time it's not a question of me not wanting to finish.
Out of Africa is a great and interesting autobiographical novel. However, and dare I even say this or will Denmark close its borders to me permanently (thus keeping me from blog camp), it is also a little boring. Especially for someone who is trying to read it underneath 'the African sky' of which, and the specific colors of which there are quite a few rather lengthy descriptions. Okay, I realize I'm currently in Finland, underneath a wholly different sky, but the last time I cracked open the book was on the plane towards Europe - in the African sky.
I had wanted to read this book for a long time. It is one of my mother's favorites, and she has good taste in literature (disregarding all of the detective novels she plows through, some of which thoroughly stink, regardless of what she says). I also loved the movie, and when I first saw it I immediately wanted a farm in Africa, if not for other reasons than to be all delightfully independent and get Robert Redford to kiss me (and such other related things). As I got older, I however realized that Redford was actually really old, and boy, how long did those films used to take to arrive to the Finnish movie theaters (years, must have been), and that his skin was not so nice when you really got up close, and perhaps (based on some other film he was in) I think his breath must smell. Still, he was dreamy in Out of Africa and I would have liked for him to have kissed me in the hills of Ngong.
I have later realized that perhaps I could have held out for Robert had I really wanted to, and I should perhaps not have been so easily discouraged. I used to think that Tom Cruise was out of my league too, on account of him being so OLD (Yup. Don't question this. This really was the only obstacle in my way.), and then he went and married a girl who is a measly 48 hours older than me. I could be performing on Broadway as we speak.
Because that's how it works out in my head.
But back from TomKat to Denys and Karen.
The old Kikuyu man on the cover of my edition of the novel stares at me every night (really morning) I go to bed, and don't pick him up, because I just don't feel like reading about how Karen's dogs won't go near muslims because they know that "muslims don't like dogs", or how the natives are resigned to life and only care about their cattle, and settle any dispute, death, marriage, and such by transactions of cattle, or how a farmer needs rain (taking us back to the sky. Again.). Even if I was able to look past the racism inherent in this book (and at some point one does need to get passed that aspect in order to enjoy the stories), I still think that this novel, regardless of portraying places in Kenya I would have liked to have visited before they were overrun with tourists, is just a little bit boring. I have come to realize that reading about riding (clearly not writing because that I would [and did] enjoy) is not for everyone me.
Also, sadly, I have come to the conclusion that by traveling so much I have ruined the fascination of this book for myself. The nature descriptions, although I can verify that not that much has changed in the nature since Blixen's day, simply wear me out. And I can't help but feel that when the book was published it was so loved in Denmark and all over the world, because it provided a way for many to see Kenya, to see Ngong and Nairobi, the Maasai, the Kikuyu, a lion, or a zebra as if they had visited Kenya and the farm themselves (it's all in the details, many unimportant details). For me, unfortunately, what remains of interest in the novel are Blixen's relationships to the locals and to her farm. I wish that was enough to carry the book for me. But, it's not.
I will wade through the last 50 pages and I will enjoy the book to an extent. I will also love the fact that I read the novel in Danish and mostly understood, and that the words I didn't know, like søko, my Danish husband or friend didn't know either. Since the word literally translates to sea cow, we know that it is an animal of some sort, but in the end are not interested enough to google research it further.
Is there anyone out there who has read this novel? What did you think?
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1 year ago