Karen Blixen in the African book and literary tourism market
In 1937, the Danish-born writer Karen Blixen published Out of Africa, an autobiographical account, in English, of the seventeen years she spent in Africa (from 1914 until 1931). During those years, she forged a permanent bond with Kenya, where she managed a coffee plantation. This bond was immortalised in the book, leading to cult status for both the publication and its author. Out of Africa contains a blend of the essay, the sketch and the historical document. A contemporary reading of the book also reveals some offensive and racist passages; footprints, as it were, of the settler society of its day. However, the lyrical, introspective quality of this book has resulted in its becoming one of the great publishing phenomena of the twentieth century, reaching many readers through various reprints, translations and a film version. This article presents the publishing history of Out of Africa and gives an overview of its many translations across the globe. It also indicates the extent to which, and the reasons why, the book did (or did not) achieve success in Africa. A comparison is also made between Out of Africa and a number of texts by other female writers who wrote about their experiences particularly in African landscapes and/or places.
Keywords: Book history, female writers, Karen Blixen, Kenya, literary tourism.