|The writer known as Isak Dinesen was born Karen Blixen into a wealthy Danish family. Her father owned extensive land north of Copenhagen, where she grew up on the family estate, the second oldest of five and her father's favorite; a sufferer from depression and most likely syphilis, he committed suicide when she was 10. Largely taught at home by governesses, Dinesen was a rebellious child who had little use for the traditional bourgeois pieties. Her first story, "The Hermits," was published in a literary journal when she was 22. A few years later, she fell in love with Baron Hans von Blixen-Finecke, but ended up marrying his twin brother, Bror. In 1913, the young couple left for Africa, where, with the help of money from Dinesen's family, they bought a coffee plantation. (Dinesen's celebrated memoir of those days, OUT OF AFRICA, begins with the deceptively simple statement: "I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.") The marriage was problematic from the beginning: Dinesen contracted syphilis from her husband, who in addition to his philandering also turned out to be hopeless at managing the plantation. In 1921, they separated, and she took over the running of the place. When she was 33, she fell in love with Denys Finch-Hatton, an English hunter and pilot; she became pregnant but miscarried. In 1926, another of her stories was published, but her personal life and the running of the highly precarious coffee business as a Depression approached took up most of her time. Finally, in 1931, Dinesen sold her beloved plantation; in the same year, Finch-Hatton, then aged 44, was killed when his plane crashed. With the ruin of all her hopes, Isak Dinesen returned to Denmark to live with her mother, and there she began to write in earnest: SEVEN GOTHIC TALES was published in 1934, OUT OF AFRICA in 1938, and WINTER'S TALES in 1942. Twice she had hopes of winning the Nobel Prize, but lost out to Hemingway and then Camus. Dinesen's health became increasingly impaired; many of her problems, like her father's, were a legacy of her uncured syphilis. She had always had a tendency toward anorexia, and toward the end of her life, she stopped eating entirely, dying peacefully, as she slept, in the house where she was born. Her elegiac memoir, OUT OF AFRICA, which was made into a 1985 film that won several Oscars, is considered her greatest work, but she is also celebrated for the lyrical prose of her sometimes fantastical short stories, which mingled the real with the supernatural to create tales of great beauty, unlike anything else.