Karen Blixen’s Humour – with reference to Kierkegaard and Pirandello and Spinoza’s SUB SPECIE AETERNITATIS

Ivan Z. Sørensen

Abstract


“I will not answer for what Isak Dinesen writes. It’s hampering!” – Karen Blixen exclaimed in an interview in 1935, after the identity of the successful Isak Dinesen was disclosed in Denmark. And furthermore: “I took the pseudonym, because I don’t want personally to be involved in the authorship.”

          In my paper I suggest that Karen Blixen – ‘the author in flesh and blood’ – stands for an ethical philosophy of life, characterized by decency, responsibility, integrity, righteousness, empathy – as unfolded in the books on Africa and her essays. On the other hand Isak Dinesen is essentially the storyteller with the courage to “make fun of everything” – deconstruct, undermine, offend. One could call Dinesen’s style and “life view” for aesthetic-humorous – with reference to Søren Kierkegaard’s stages of life.        

          “I often intend a comic sense, I love a joke, I love the humorous”, Blixen says in an interview in 1956. But humour – in Kierkegaard’s sense – is combined with a certain sadness or pain. In her stories Blixen unfold this humorous tone in the so-called “cadenza dinganno”, mentioned in The Cardinals First Tale, which “makes every preparation for a perfect finish and then, instead of giving the expected final accord, suddenly breaks off and sounds an unexpected, strange and alarming close.” This cadenza dinganno, I will contend, is a particular meta-characteristic of Isak Dinesens style. Furthermore: in her humorous aesthetics she is close to Pirandello, whom she called “an Einstein in literature”.


Keywords


Karen Blixen, Isak Dimesen, author in flesh and blood, Africa, make fun of everything, “life view” for aesthetic- humorous, Soren Kierkegaard

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