IN FOCUSnBetween Karen & baknIsak Dinesen: Letters fromnAfrica, i9i4-i95i; edited by FransnLasson; University of Cliicago Press;nChicago.nby Joseph SchwartznA careful comparative studynof these letters by Isak Dinesenn(Karen Blixen) with her personalnmemoir, Out of Africa (1937),nshows how real the differencesnare between Blixen as letterwriternand Blixen as story-teller.nOut of Africa, a succes d’estimenof its time, was written ten yearsnafter her return to Denmark. Innit she shaped her material as annold-fashioned story-tellernwould. She took liberty with factualndata in order to form a narrativenin what one critic hasncalled a mode of recital.nI have always thought that Inmight have cut a figure atnthe time of the plague innFlorence. Fashions havenchanged, and the art ofnlistening to a narrative hasnbeen lost in Europe. Thennatives of Africa, who cannotnread, have still got it; ifnyou begin to them: “Therenwas a man who walked outnon the plain, and there henmet another man,” younhave them all with you,ntheir minds running uponnthe unknown track of thenmen on the plain. But whitenpeople, even if they feelnthey ought to, cannot listennto a recital.nThe success of that memoir servednto contradict her sense of thenEuropean appreciation of nar-nDr. Schwartz teaches English atnMarquette University.nrative as racial. Try yourself, as Indid recently, to test this theory.n”There was a man who was walkingndown Wisconsin Avenue,nand he ran into an acquaintance.nThey …” You will have themnall with you, no matter whatntheir age and color.nThe letters are much more immediate,nless polished, morententative than her fiction—innshort, a portrait of the youngnKaren Blixen. Things rightlynomitted from Out of Africanloom large in the letters: thenfailure of her marriage, her continuingnbout with syphilis, hernaffair with Denys Finch Hattonnand his unexpected death. Hernmother and brother particularlynbrought out the best in Blixen asna correspondent. With neithernof them could she be carelesslyncandid. Hence the letters arenparadoxically more “real” thannthey would be if they were writtennwith no restraint at all.nAbove all else, one subjectndominates the letters, asidenfrom the overwhelming presencenof her love for Africa. Blixennhad severe problems in comingnto terms with her womanhood.nMuch of this seems to occur afternthe failure of her marriage—anfailure she strongly resisted. Butnonce it was accepted, Blixen becamenstrangely concerned withnquestions of sex, marriage, birthncontrol and so on. As if in reactionnto her formerly acceptednidea of commitment in marriage,nshe indicated that the keynto her character was her desirennot to possess anyone or benpossessed by anyone. This isnquite the opposite of thenmessage of writers like EvelynnWaugh, who feel that to lovenanother human being is the rootnof all wisdom. This arms-lengthnattitude appears also to be thenresult of her troubled affair withnDenys Finch Hatton. It is dearnthat she was much fonder of himnthan he was of her, that his commitmentnwas tenuous at best.nBecause she did not or could notnbecome pregnant, there is muchnmuddled thinking about birthncontrol, eugenics and the futurenof the race through controllednbreeding. “I prize my freedomnabove everything else that Inpossess.” Well, yes and no. It isnevident that for either her husbandnor her lover, she wouldnhave exchanged gladly thisnpeculiar modern idea of freedomnfor the commitment basednon a promise.nHer failures were in Africa,nthe most important place in hernlife: “I have a feeling thatnwherever I may be in the future,nI will be wondering whethernthere is rain at Ngong.” Thenfailures were commercial andnPilgrim’s PlummetnAn Abyss Deep Enough: Lettersnof Heinrich von Kleist;nedited by Philip B. Miller; E.p.nDutton; New York.nby Bryce ChristensennHeinrich von Kleist is knownnprimarily as an artist whose fictionnand drama have thrillednsensitive readers as diverse asnKafka and Brahms. His letters,ntranslated and edited by PhilipnB. Miller, reveal that as earnesdynas he sought aesthetic beauty, hencraved religious truth. “My realninterests in my heart,” Kleistnwrote, are “these sacred interests,nthese religious endowments,nthese bequests of mynMr. Christensen is an editorialnintern at the Chronicles.nnnsocial, but most of all personal.nHer success as a writer came laternin Denmark, when the personalnelement had been removed, sonto speak, and she could stand atna distance from her subject.nMaybe she was as cool as she saidnshe was.nKaren Blixen was a peculiarnmixture of differences. As annaristocrat, she was deeply movednby the 17 years of feudallike lifenin Africa. Her works seem tonshow that she was suspicious ofnscientific thought; she madenjokes about the common man,nand she felt that progress was annillusion. Yet she swallowednwhole most of the tiresomencliches concerning women whichnhave since been labeled feminism.nHer fiction was patentlynconservative; none of the experimentsnin point of view, use ofntime or character which characterizednher era are found in hernwork. In the end she seems morenlike Jane Bowles than likenKatherine Anne Porter, deservingnof respectfiil brevity. Dnown religion.” Miller even suggestsnthat Kleist’s letters “recalln… a now secularized and dubiousnPilgrim’s Progress.” Dubiousnindeed. Unlike the upwardnjourney of Bunyan’s Christianninto light and salvation, Kleist’snis a despairing descent into darknessnand death. The terminus ofnthis hopeless pilgrimage was notna triumphal entry into the CelestialnCity but a desperate leap intonthe dark abyss of suicide—ntaking another man’s wife withnhim. The coroner’s report correctlynconjectured that Kleist’sndeath was attributable to “angeneral excess of religious enthusiasm.”nInexplicably, contemporarynintellectuals who sneer at expressionsnof religious faith are remarkablynsympathetic to thenwmmmmmmWnOctober 198Sn