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Out of Africa

Isak Dinesen

Book Four, Farewell to the Farm: From "Hard Times" to "The Death of Kinanjui"

Book Four, From an Immigrant's Notebook: From "Of Natives and History" to "The Parrot"

Book Four, Farewell to the Farm: From "Hard Times" to "The Death of Kinanjui", page 2

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Hard Times

The farm always has been a little too high up for growing coffee. The frost sometimes withered the young coffee berries and the high altitude made the farm more prone to droughts. In addition to the difficulties of harvesting, European prices for coffee suddenly drop by thirty percent. The farm has many debts and its European investors long for the narrator to sell it.

Like all African farmers, the narrator occasionally has thought up new techniques to make money, which have included growing flax, having a dairy, or having more cattle. But nothing has helped. Economic woes fill the narrator with stress and dread, which she mainly keeps to herself.

Two years before leaving Africa, the narrator returns from a trip to Europe to find that the amount of coffee harvested was far beneath her expectations and their needs. She knows then that she will have to sell the farm. The same year, a plague of grasshopper appears. They cover the farm, eating the maize, knocking over trees, and laying their eggs. The narrator finally gives up trying to save the farm. She sells it to a big company in Nairobi who plans to turn it into residential dwellings for an expanded Nairobi. She is allowed to stay on the farm until after the coffee harvest.

The squatters on the farm know of its economic troubles and often come sit silently by the farmhouse at night. The narrator feels comforted by their presence in these difficult times.

Death of Kinanjui

Chief Kinanjui, the head of the Kikuyus, dies the same year that the farm is sold. Kinanjui had become fatally injured while claiming some cattle that were owed to him by the Masai. A cow had gored his leg and the wound turned gangrenous. The narrator is called to his bedside on the night of his death.

In Kinanjui's hunt, the narrator finds him looking very ill. His sons and tribal elders surround him. Kinanjui wants the narrator to take him to her farm so that he can die. The Christian doctors from the Scotch Mission are coming to get him and take him there, but he does not want to go. He hopes that the narrator shall take him instead.

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