If you loved Out of Africa, you’ll want to visit the Karen Blixen Museum in Kenya where the author Karen Blixen lived between 1914 and 1931. She left after a series of personal tragedies, but the lovely farmhouse has been preserved as a museum. Set in 4,500 acres of expansive gardens at the foot of Kenya’s Ngong Hills, the museum is an interesting place to wander when you are in Nairobi, Kenya.
Danish writer Karen Blixen, the author of Out of Africa who is also known by her pen name, Isak Dinesen, was born Karen Christenze Dinesen on April 17, 1885. She was born in Rungsted, Denmark, north of Copenhagen. and was called Tanne by her family and friends.
The young Karen marries Swedish Baron Bror von Blixen Fincke Baron and moves to Kenya to run a coffee plantation below the Ngong Hills about ten miles southwest of Nairobi. They have trouble making it work, after discovering that he is unfaithful, Karen develops feelings for Denys, a game hunter. Denys Finch Hatton, dies in a plane crash in 1931 which prompts Blixen to return to Denmark.
While still in Kenya, Blixen is said to have written to her brother Thomas, “I have begun to do what we brothers and sisters do when we don’t know what else to resort to, I have started to write a book. … ” which later becomes her memoir.
As a young girl, Karen Blixen often mixed her writing exercises with her sketches and was a good artist as well. She believed that one form of expression inextricably tied to the other. she was only 23, Karen Blixen, when she was only 23 used a pseudonym – Peter Lawless and published some humorous drawings in a political-satirical weekly magazine. Karen Blixen used the pseudonym Isak Dinesen when she published the Seven Gothic Tales in English and Danish. She published Out of Africa in the US under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen but changed to Karen Blixen for the Danish version.
Karen Blixen Museum in Nairobi
The Karen Blixen Museum sits on a beautiful garden and you can see the tractors and other equipment used by the coffee farm. Inside the house, you can see Blixen’s library, her office where here typewriter still sits, the kitchen with her pots and pans, her cuckoo clock that the Masai children came to see every day at noon and the patio where she sat down to prescribe medicine to the people.
The Karen Blixen Museum is open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Guides are included in the admission fee, and they can start the tour with Blixen’s story even if you have not read the book or seen the Hollywood version of it.
Some scenes of the 1985 movie Out of Africa featuring starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep were actually shot in the Karen Blixen Museum and some farm and safari scenes were filmed at a nearby location. At the Luxury Lodge Angama Mara though, you can pretend to be like Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in the movie. The staff can set up a picnic with views of the Great Rift Valley overlooking the plains of Masai Mara just like in the movie and book.
If you find yourself in Rungstedlund on the Øresund coast just north of Copenhagen, Denmark you can visit the house in which Karen Blixen was born. This Karen Blixen Museum and house is the place that she returned to after 17 years as a farmer in Africa. She lived here until her death in 1962, and it also here that she finished her book that she started in Kenya and wrote all her other internationally renowned stories.