Karen Blixen’s house at Rungstedlund

This is perhaps the most beautiful interior I have ever seen. It is at once bohemian and aristocratic. Karen Blixen being who she was, it is determinedly unbourgeois. It is of course also a wonderful pilgrimage site.

I’ve been to Blixen’s house in Denmark twice now, and loved it even more the second time. I’m an ignorant devotee. I schlepped out of Nairobi once on a bus, to see her coffee farm and Fynch-Hatton’s grave, so you’ll see that I’ve put the time in. I say “ignorant”. I loved Out of Africa, and thought the film captured the book’s heightened tone much better than anyone had a right to expect. I loved the movie of Babette’s Feast, though I don’t remember reading the book, any more than I have bothered with reading her “gothic tales”.

The point of visiting her Rungstedlund house (a twenty minute train ride up the coast from Copenhagen) is that she was an aesthete: her life and her home were of a piece in being adventures in taste and style.

Bit by bit, more of Blixen becomes clear. This trip I discovered that Elie Steen Rasmussen was in love with her style. Rasmussen was an early hero of mine for his sharp writing on the English and their urban life. Late in Blixen’s life, he came across her and fell in enough in love with her flower to write a book about it.

The Blixen museum is a living place. Every day they recreate the flower arrangements Blixen did every day.

I don’t suppose I was supposed to take them, but here’s a couple of snaps.

Flowers at Karen Blixen's house

Flowers at Karen Blixen's house

More flowers at Blixen's house

More flowers at Blixen's house

There are few interiors to match Blixen’s. Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge comes close, and maybe Charleston, the Bloomsbury hideout in East Sussex.

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Publication date

01 June 2009


Mind & body; On movies