Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Out of Africa

It's been really busy around here, my allergies have been getting me down, and it seems like I'm always too pooped to read for very long. But I did start Out of Africa and I'm finding it delightful. It is as if she dreamed of Africa and is trying to capture it all before it dissolves in the daylight. What an amazing life that must have been. The stories (at least in the part I've read so far) are all about the Natives (her word) and the peculiar nature of her relationship to them. She recounts these stories as the solitary authority figure on the farm; and at least so far never mentions her husband, but already several times, Denys Finch-Hatton. Having seen the movie, I don't want to leap to the conclusion that her tale matches up too neatly with how her life was depicted in the film, though the essential facts are that Finch-Hatton was her lover and her wandering husband infected her with syphilis. In the book, so far, the husband is a blank. Ah -- the power of the Creator! It is hard to keep Meryl Streep's voice (as Karen Blixen) out of my head as I read.

I love her descriptions of the landscape, the African night, the animals, and the flora of Kenya. Of course, her observations of the different tribes and peoples, their culture and traditions, are very interesting, but also awaken in me my post-colonial critical perspective of the white, Western voice pronouncing on the Dark Continent. She seems to see herself as the translator of these peoples to Westerners, and I do think that it was a sincere effort of hers -- meant to acknowledge her affection and admiration for them, even as they are dismissed in many ways as inscrutable and Other.

Still, I hope it makes me dream of grassy plains, gazelles and lions, and starry, African nights with the hyena's eyes shining in the dark.