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Isak Dinesen, Female Writer Hidden Behind a Male Pseudonym

Updated on February 12, 2013

Isak Dinesen - A Writer with a Male Pseudonym

The Danish Baroness Karen Blixen-Finecke was born April 17, 1885 at Rungstedlund, Denmark. She was christened Karen Christence Dinesen. Karen was the spawn of an old Danish family steeped in the traditions of the aristocracy and mores of the day that limited women's prominence in society and in particular, the literary world. This was the world that believed women in literature simply wouldn't be credible and their writings as females would be of little interest.

Where There's A Will, There's a Pseudonym

It became apparent that the same passion for writing men felt was also a passion their female counterparts felt. Men of their day described this as female "emotionalism." Passion simply was not a word directed toward women and especially not in respectable circles. Thus, women like the Baroness Blixen-Finecke had little options to present their literary tales in female persona. Instead, they chose a pseudonym.

Female Writers of the 1800's

The Baroness Blixen-Finecke was not the first woman to choose a male pseudonym. It seems easy to see the connection of women of this era whose desire for change in the restrictive literary world dominated largely by men. Perhaps, the first women who chose male pseudonyms were Mary Lamb, sister of the prominent male writer, Charles Lamb whose famous writer colleagues included Coleridge, Lloyd and Wordsworth. She was followed in the halls of female writers with male pseudonyms by Mary Ann Evans famously known as George Eliot, Emily, Anne and Charlotte Bronte who chose the pseudonyms Ellis, Acton and Currer Bell, respectively and Louisa May Alcong whose pseudonym was A.M. Barnard.

Dinesen in Kenya - 1907

The Baroness published her first stories under the pseudonym "Osceola). A trip to Kenya in then British East Africa was the location of her married to a Swedish nobleman, famous sportsman and big game hunter, Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke. She remained in Kenya after their divorce in 1925. She managed a considerably large coffee plantation until droughts, fevers, a plague of grasshoppers and falling coffee prices in 1931 forced her to sell.

She wrote "Out of Africa" in 1937. This work was based on her life and experiences in Kenya. To fill her idle time during the Kenyan droughts, she found solace in writing. She chose to write stories, romances and fairy tales that transported her mind from her difficulties.

In 1934, Isak Dinesen wrote Seven Gothic Tales, a classic. It was part of a writing collection she wrote on her return to her homeland. In 1944, Baroness Blixen solved the mystery of a Gothic allegory, "The Angelic Avengers," authored by Pierre Andrezel, a Frenchmen. The Baroness admitted writing this novel.

Before she died in Copenhagen in 1962, Isak Dinesen had written Last Tales, Anecdote of Destiny and African sketches entitled "Shadows on the Grass."

Dinesen is most known for her ability to knit art and life into her fantastic tales and for her ability to weave stories that substantiate the validity of the plot and the writer. She considered comedy a "divine art." She leaves an indelible influence on Scandinavian literary neophytes.


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    • Ewent profile image

      Eleanore Ferranti Whitaker 5 years ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

      Thank you. I find the topic of pseudonyms particularly interesting. Eleanore

    • brownella profile image

      brownella 5 years ago from New England

      I love Out of Africa (the movie and the book) as well as her winter tales. Great hub.

    • Ewent profile image

      Eleanore Ferranti Whitaker 5 years ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

      Thank you. I love finding personalities that are long forgotten in history to use for a hub.

    • Ewent profile image

      Eleanore Ferranti Whitaker 5 years ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

      Thank you Eddy. I appreciate your comments. Eleanore

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Thank you so very much for this interesting read.

      Enjoy your day.