A Review of ‘Babette’s Feast’, by Isak Dinesen, The Yolla Bolly Press

There are few pleasures in life greater than high quality literature in a fine press edition, dining on excellent food and drinking world class wine. Managing to have a book that intellectually combines all three is a near miracle in my world, and dangerous to boot!  Dangerous?  Financially so, as the book is impossible to resist purchasing and while reading it, one is essentially forced to make reservations at the finest restaurants for weeks to come, as the mind and mouth will not stop watering with the thought of such a fabulous dinner!

Babette’s Feast, the story of which concerns a fictional chef who spends her entire 10,000-franc lottery prize to prepare one final, spectacular gourmet meal, is much more than a book about gourmandism.  It is a book about life and sacrifice.  Certainly it highlights that fine food and wine can magically bring out the vibrancy and zest for life that remains deep in the soul of even the most dour of individuals.  By awakening  embers of joy, of companionship, of thought and laughter, a meal such as the one Babette puts on can re-unite us with the hope, energy and optimism normally lost with the passing of youth.

What Isak Dinesen accomplishes in this short story is almost as good; it reminds us that those inner embers are still there within us, that life is meant to be lived and to be lived in a way that is fulfilling. Yet, as Richard Olney points out in his excellent afterword, the book was written to be entertainment, and entertaining it is. So, pop open your favorite Burgundy, immerse yourself in Babette’s Feast, and enjoy!

Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke (1885-1962), whose pen name was Isak Dinesen, is best known for her book Out of Africathe 1995 film adaptation of which starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford won seven academy awards including Best Picture. Her Babette’s Feast was also adapted into an excellent film, winning the Academy Award in 1987 for Best Foreign Language Film.

As with all books from The Yolla Bolly Press (see the Index by publisher, and scroll to Yolla Bolly Press), everything is top of the line.  Excellent paper, excellent type and presswork, great job with the woodcuts (nicely done by artist Karin Wikstrom), nice scale, easy to read wide margins, etc. The afterword by famous food writer Richard Olney (1927-1999) is a wonderful way to cap off the book. In talking with Carolyn Robertson a couple months back, she may have a couple of these left, you should contact her if interested. Highly recommended!

About the Edition

  • Designed by and printed for James and Carolyn Robertson at The Yolla Bolly Press in 1997
  • Woodcuts by Karin Wikstrom
  • Composed electronically in the Pegasus typeface by Wilsted & Taylor, and by hand at the Press
  • Printed from polymer plates by Aaron Johnson, who also assisted with planning the edition
  • The paper is mouldmade English Somerset
  • The binding, designed and printed at the Press, was executed by Cardoza-James Binding Company
  • Slipcases made by John DeMerritt
  • Published in arrangement with Random House, Inc.
  • Afterword copyright Richard Olney, 1997
  • Woodcuts copyright Karin Wikstrom, 1997
  • Limited to 225 copies offered for sale, mine is #3

Pictures

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Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Slipcase
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Cover and Spine
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Front Cover
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Macro of Cover
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Macro of Side View
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, EndPapers
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Half-Title
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Half-Title 2
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Frontispiece
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Macro of Frontispiece
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Sample Text #1
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Macro of Sample Text #1
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Sample Illustrations #1 and Text
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Sample Illustrations #2 and Text
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Sample Illustration #3
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Sample Text #3 (Afterword)
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Sample Text #4 (actual menu for June 7, 1867 ‘Dinner of the Three Emperors”)
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Colophon
Babette’s Feast, Yolla Bolly Press, Colophon Signature Macro

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