London, Putnam, 1937.
8vo [215 x 137 mm] of (2) bl.ll., ix pp., 416 pp., (3) bl.ll. Preserved in the editor’s burgundy cloth with the gilt title on the spine, with the original illustrated jacket. Contemporary binding.
First edition of Karen Blixen’s famous novel, originally written in Danish but published for the first time in Great-Britain.
The Danish baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke, known by her pen name of Isak Dinesen (1885-1962) is a woman of letters, famous because she wrote Out of Africa. She went to Kenya – a British colony at the time – to marry the brother of the lover who didn’t want her. During the year 1913, Karen and Bror, then engaged, try to create a coffee plantation in the English Eastern Africa. The company is named Karen Coffee Co. Karen comes to feel a deep love for Africa, whereas Europe is entering World War One. She tries desperately to grow coffee trees on the bare and desolated lands of her farm, hoping to protect the African tribe that lives there. In 1917, a conflict breaks out between the spouses about the future of the company. By 1923, Karen Blixen’s own brother is already convinced that the farm is not economically viable. During the following years, Karen doesn’t stop asking money to her family in order to help survive the farm. The situation continues deteriorating itself. Finally, in 1931, the society is forced to liquidate the company and to sell the farm. Karen Blixen spends the last months selling the last harvest and trying to ensure her employees’ situation.
The novel relates, without necessarily respecting the chronology, many events that occurred during the seventeen years the baroness lived in Kenya. The best part of them concerns the natives’ lives that Karen Blixen got to know and understand gradually. Others relate the Europeans’ lives among which the character of Finch Hatton that stands out from the other colonists, by mixing a harsh way of life and a sophisticated spirit. Karen Blixen lives a romantic and passionate affair with this English aristocrat, safari hunter, always elsewhere, everywhere present. The dominant theme is the bond developed by the narrator with Africa, its people and nature. In a more complex way, she suggests that Africa managed to keep its intimate relation to God, because Africans are much closer to nature than Europeans who, for a great part, have lost the nobility of the soul and the honest and simple relations that nature calls for.
A beautiful and precious copy, very well preserved, with the illustrated jacket preserved unrestored, a very rare condition for this fragile book.
The illustrated jacket belongs here to the first state, with the three advertisings on the back cover for “My Scottish Youth”, “Goodbye West Country” and “Under Five Eagles“.