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Isak Dinesen

  • It is not a bad thing in a tale that you understand only half of it.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Dreamers," Seven Gothic Tales ()
  • ... dreaming is the well-mannered people's way of committing suicide.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Dreamers," Seven Gothic Tales ()
  • ... what is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set, ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shiraz into urine?

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Dreamers," Seven Gothic Tales ()
  • I know of a cure for everything: salt water. ... Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Deluge at Norderney," Seven Gothic Tales ()
  • If only I could so live and so serve the world that after me there should never again be birds in cages ...

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Deluge at Norderney," Seven Gothic Tales ()
  • When we are young the idea of death or failure is intolerable to us; even the possibility of ridicule we cannot bear. But we have also an unconquerable faith in our own stars, and in the impossibility of anything venturing to go against us. As we grow old we slowly come to believe that everything will turn out badly for us, and that failure is in the nature of things, but then we do not much mind what happens to us one way or the other. In this way a balance is obtained.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Deluge at Norderney," Seven Gothic Tales ()
  • What is it which is bought dearly, offered for nothing, and then most often refused? — Experience, old people's experience.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Monkey," Seven Gothic Tales ()
  • Truth, like time, is an idea arising from, and dependent upon, human intercourse.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Roads Round Pisa," Seven Gothic Tales ()
  • Coffee, according to the women of Denmark, is to the body what the word of the Lord is to the soul.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Supper at Elsinore," Seven Gothic Tales ()
  • People who dream when they sleep at night know of a special kind of happiness which the world of the day holds not, a placid ecstasy, and ease of heart, that are like honey on the tongue.

  • ... I had seen a herd of Buffalo, one hundred and twenty-nine of them, come out of the morning mist under a copper sky, one by one, as if the dark and massive, iron-like animals with the mighty horizontally swung horns were not approaching, but were being created before my eyes and sent out as they were finished.

  • I had seen a herd of Elephant travelling through dense native forest ... pacing along as if they had an appointment at the end of the world.

  • I had time after time watched the progression across the plain of the giraffe, in their queer, inimitable, vegetative gracefulness, as if it were not a herd of animals but a family of rare, long-stemmed, speckled gigantic flowers slowly advancing.

  • Where a pack of monkeys had traveled over the road, the smell of them lingered for a long time in the air, a dry and stale, mousy smell.

  • The pleasure of the true dreamer does not lie in the substance of the dream, but in this: that there things happen without any interference from his side, and altogether outside his control.

  • There is something strangely determinate and fatal about a single shot in the night. It is as if someone had cried a message to you in one word, and would not repeat it.

  • The flamingoes are the most delicately colored of all the African birds, pink and red like a flying twig of an oleander bush. They have incredibly long legs and bizarre and recherché curves of their necks and bodies, as if from some exquisite traditional prudery they were making all attitudes and movements in life as difficult as possible.

  • I have before seen other countries, in the same manner, give themselves to you when you are about to leave them ...

  • It is more than their land that you take away from the people, whose native land you take. It is their past as well, their roots and their identity. If you take away the things that they have been used to see, and will be expecting to see, you may, in a way, as well take their eyes.

  • ... death — a passage outside the range of imagination, but within the range of experience.

  • In Africa, when you pick up a book worth reading, out of the deadly consignments which good ships are always being made to carry out all the way from Europe, you read it as an author would like his book to be read, praying to God that he may have it in him to go on as beautifully as he has begun. Your mind runs, transported, upon a fresh deep green track.

  • ... the true art of the gods is the comic. The comic is a condescension of the divine to the world of man; it is the sublime vision, which cannot be studied, but must ever be celestially granted. In the comic the gods see their own being reflected as in a mirror, and while the tragic poet is bound by strict laws, they will allow the comic artist a freedom as unlimited as their own.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "Sorrow-Acre," Winter's Tales ()
  • Life and Death are two locked caskets, each of which contains the key to the other.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "A Consolatory Tale," Winter's Tales ()
  • ... man and woman are two locked caskets, of which each contains the key to the other.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "A Consolatory Tale," Winter's Tales ()
  • ... you and I, the rich and the poor of this world, are two locked caskets, of which each contains the key to the other.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "A Consolatory Tale," Winter's Tales ()
  • It is when people are told their own thoughts that they think they are being insulted.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Immortal Story," in Ladies' Home Journal ()
  • The divine art is the story.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Cardinal's First Tale," Last Tales ()
  • ... within our whole universe the story only has the authority to answer that cry of heart of its characters, that one cry of heart of each of them: 'Who am I?'

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Cardinal's First Tale," Last Tales ()
  • The entire being of a woman is a secret which should be kept.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Cloak," Last Tales ()
  • ... I arrived at the conviction that we should, more easily and more thoroughly than we now do or ever have done, understand the nature and the laws of the Cosmos if we would from the beginning recognize its originator and upholder as being of the female sex.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "Tales of Two Old Gentlemen," Last Tales ()
  • ... in the mind and nature of a man a secret is an ugly thing, like a hidden physical defect.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "Of Hidden Thoughts and of Heaven," Last Tales ()
  • Where the story-teller is loyal, eternally and unswervingly loyal to the story, there, in the end, silence will speak. Where the story has been betrayed, silence is but emptiness.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Blank Page," Last Tales ()
  • Who ... tells a finer tale than any of us? Silence does.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Blank Page," Last Tales ()
  • ... some travelers are drawn forward by a goal lying before them in the way iron is drawn to the magnet. Others are driven on by a force lying behind them. In such a way the bowstring makes the arrow fly.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "Echoes," Last Tales ()
  • One may take many liberties with God which one cannot take with men.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "Echoes," Last Tales ()
  • A great artist is never poor.

  • All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • in Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition ()
  • When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, without faith and without hope, suddenly the work will finish itself.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • in Glenway Wescott, Images of Truth: Remembrances and Criticism ()
  • I belong to an ancient, idle, wild and useless tribe, perhaps I am even one of the last members of it, who for many thousands of years, in all countries and parts of the world, has, now and again, stayed for a time among the hard-working honest people in real life, and sometimes has thus been fortunate enough to create another sort of reality for them, which in some way or another, has satisfied them. I am a storyteller.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • in Donald Hannah, "Isak Dinesen" and Karen Blixen: The Mask and the Reality ()
  • It is often the case with a new idea that when it comes knocking on society's door with modesty and the best premises for its existence, there is a tremendous outcry from inside.

  • One must in this lower world love many things to know finally what one loves the best ...

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • in Judith Thurman, Isak Dinesen: Life of a Storyteller ()
  • A poet's mission is to make others confound fiction and reality in order to render them, for an hour, mysteriously happy.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • in Judith Thurman, Isak Dinesen: Life of a Storyteller ()
  • All suffering is bearable if it is seen as part of a story.

    • Isak Dinesen
  • God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road.

    • Isak Dinesen
  • ... difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes around worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.

    • Isak Dinesen
  • Love, with very young people, is a heartless business. We drink at that age from thirst, or to get drunk; it is only later in life that we occupy ourselves with the individuality of our wine.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Old Chevalier," Seven Gothic Tales ()
  • Through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me leave to do my utmost!

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "Babette's Feast," Anecdotes of Destiny ()

Isak Dinesen, Danish writer

(1885 - 1962)

Full name: Baroness Karen Christence Dinesen Blixen.