OUT OF AFRICA as a Pursuit of Passionate Purpose

Here is a book review of Out of Africa, by guest blogger Annie Szczurek Davis.  As a heroine's journey, it is in itself an interesting pursuit of passionate purpose dealing with business and life experiences. 

What if you were given the opportunity to move to Africa and run a farm there? Would you do it? In Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen, the pen name of Karen Blixen, Blixen describes her experience in Africa. In 1914, at the age of 27, she sailed from Denmark to Africa and married her Swedish cousin, Baron Bror Blixen. For seven years, they lived together on their 4000 acre coffee plantation in Kenya, but eventually got divorced. Karen Blixen remained in Africa for another ten years, until she was forced to sell her beloved farm and move back to Denmark. The book is filled with many stories of the land, the Native African people and animals, and her friends in Africa. Though many of these stories are simply memories from her time in Africa, and don't play much of a role in the plot, Karen's overall journey follows the archetypal heroic cycle. In the orientation phase of her journey, she is called from her home in Denmark to marry her cousin, and crosses into another world when she reaches Africa. During her 17 years in Africa (the disorientation phase), she experiences many struggles and challenges, and eventually is forced to sell her farm. After moving back to Denmark, in literary terms, reorienting herself, Blixen shares her stories with the world as a gift.

 The novel shared some valuable lessons and messages with the reader, through the different stories. One point that was particularly clear to me was understanding and appreciating people of different races. A good portion of the book was spent describing the Natives who lived on Karen's farm and certain of the Natives to whom she was closest. These stories helped the reader understand the similarities and differences between Natives and Europeans. Blixen writes with such affection and regard for the Natives that the reader walks away less prejudiced against them.

 Lastly, Blixen made the point that although there will be uncontrollable events that occur in life, there is little-to-nothing you can do to control them. Life can be difficult. So, therefore, you should respond as best you can given the situation, but ultimately accept your destiny and fortune. Karen Blixen struggled with drought, low crop yields, grasshoppers, and much more. Because of these irrepressible factors which did not allow her ongoing financial support, she was ultimately forced to sell her farm and move away. After some denial that she would have to leave her home of 17 years, Blixen resigned herself to the fact that she was actually leaving. She also compared the philosophy of the Natives to that of Europeans with regards to their destiny and fortunes, saying that the Natives are more able to accept the cards they are dealt in life. From her own personal strategy, as well as her comparison of Natives and Europeans, her philosophy becomes clear to the reader that certain out-of-control events do happen, but there may be nothing you can about them except have equanimity. 

by Annie Szcczurek Davis (

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