Literature Study GuidesOut Of AfricaPart 3 Chapter 2 Summary

Out of Africa | Study Guide

Isak Dinesen

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Out of Africa | Part 3, Chapter 2 : Visitors to the Farm (A Visitor from Asia) | Summary



Choleim Hussein is an Indian merchant, devout Muslim, and Farah's friend. One day, he asks the narrator to host a visit from a Muslim High Priest from India. He and the local Muslim congregations can think of no better way to entertain their guest. They further request that the narrator present the High Priest with their gift of 100 rupees, as etiquette demands for this exalted visit.

The narrator consents, and on the day that the High Priest arrives, she presents him with the rupees. Because they have no common language, the entertainment consists of sitting on the lawn with the narrator pointing out things of possible interest on the farm. However, the High Priest seems to be enjoying himself and takes notable interest in her flock of geese. In turn, the narrator discovers a friendly spirit in the priest and is intrigued by his manner of taking in what he sees. He seems "interested in everything, and incapable of surprise at anything."

At the end of the visit, the two exchange gifts. From the High Priest, the narrator receives a ring with a pearl. She presents him with the skin of a recently killed lion.


Blixen's visit with the Muslim High Priest is in stark contrast to her visits with Denys Finch-Hatton described in the previous chapter. Those provide extended periods of free and frank conversation, exchanges of stories and ideas without pretense. In her meeting with the priest, Blixen—the storyteller—cannot communicate with words due to the lack of a common language. She must resort to pantomime.

This restriction initially prejudices her against the High Priest. In general, Blixen detests the stiff formality imposed by social and cultural expectations. They are shackles to be thrown off, and she has largely succeeded in doing so in Africa. Therefore, while graciously hospitable, she inwardly bristles at the ceremony surrounding the High Priest's visit. However, as the day progresses, this feeling subsides and is replaced with curiosity. The priest appears to see all that she shows him but takes it in with a serene diffidence that fascinates her. Even the presence of her dogs—often detested by Muslim guests—fails to disturb the tranquility of the priest or his visit. He seems only an observer of the world while spiritually dwelling elsewhere, immune to or ignorant of the world's evils. In this, the High Priest presents a contrast to Blixen. While also a keen observer, she does not hold herself apart but immerses herself in the world, enduring its suffering and embracing its joy.

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