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Name: CASPARSSON, Otto August

Birth Date: 15 May 1888 Uttersberg, Kolmarden

Death Date: 20 Oct 1941 Hedvig Eleonora, Stockholm

Profession: Maitre d. at Norfolk Hotel

Married: In Helsingborg, Sweden 3 Sep 1923 Astrid Harriet Kafoed-Hansen b. 3 Oct 1902 Denmark

Book Reference: Mills Norfolk, Patrick Collister

General Information:

Mills Norfolk - Karen herself lunched regularly at the Norfolk when she was in Nairobi and, in one chapter of Out of Africa entitled 'A fugitive rests on the farm' refers to a Swede whom, in the book, she called Emmanuelson'. Emmanuelson was in fact a one-time dramatic actor, Oscar Casparsson. As a maitre d'hotel at the Norfolk for a while he so exasperated her by persisting in standing right behind her chair when she lunched in the dining room 'all the time talking in a very oily voice of the old country' that, until he was sacked, she moved her midday luncheon venue to the New Stanley.
It was to her surprise then that one evening he turned up at the coffee farm telling her that he was on his way, on foot and alone, to Tanganyika and begging for hospitality for the night. "He had on a long black overcoat such as nobody wears in Africa, he was unshaven and his hair was not cut, his old shoes were split at the toe. He was taking no belongings with him to Tanganyika, his hands were empty." 
Karen Blixen: 'Half a year later I was surprised to receive a registered letter from Dodoma, where I knew no one. The letter was from Emanuelson….He told me in detail about his journey to Tanganyika. He had much good to say of the Masai. They had found him on the road and had taken him in, had shown him great kindness and hospitality, and had let him travel with them most of the way, by many circuits. He had, he wrote, entertained them so well, with recounts of his adventures in many countries, that they had not wanted to let him go.'
Bjorn Fontander, Blixen and Blixen, 2004: (translation from Swedish) 'Otto Casparsson died a few years later., He didn’t have time to write his memoirs as far as we know. But who was he really? In Svenska Dagbladet I wondered who this remarkable Swedish tramp was and received a pleasing crop of replies, not least from Casparsson’s relatives. The following facts are unobjectionable. Otto Casparsson was born in 1888 on his ancestral farm of Uttersberg in Kolmården in Östergotland. His father was Carl August Caparrson, a landowner, and his mother was Eugenie, née Klingspor. The seven siblings had artistic leanings, sang and acted. Otto had no interest in the farm, in the land or the forest. Several sources mentioned that Otto “misbehaved” and someone wrote a sentence that suggested “certain unfortunate circumstances put him at odds with the rest of the family.”' 
Ibid: “He is said to have received some money from home from time to time just so that he could keep his nose above water. Otherwise he would have put an end to everything immediately.” 
Ibid.: Casparsson wrote to Karen from Tunis in July 1934 to say he had spent his last pennies on a passage from Mombasa to Port Said. In Mombasa, he told a relative, he had been a swing keeper at an amusement park for a while. On the ship, he made an elderly Swedish count who, believing he was dying, wanted Casparsson to help arrange his funeral in Naples. However, upon arrival in Italy the count felt a lot better and decided he would live a little longer and Casparsson was dismissed. From there he seems to have made his way to Tripoli, where, he later told Karen, he lived on the roof of a building, which was fine except during the rains. His family were respectable gentry, which is what he had in common with Karen, and I can only presume that they bailed him out from time to time. 
Otto was gay. Fontander quotes a letter from Karen Blixen in which she describes Otto as "an erotic deviant with a weak character and  extremely weak artistic aptitudes.”
Karen Blixen met him for lunch in Sweden in 1938.
His bro Ernst Gustav, was an equestrian who competed in the 1912 Olympics.
Patrick Collister (writing a novel about Otto): In 1973, an English film-maker (unknown) went so far as to approach the Swedish Film Institute with plans to make a film about Otto (Emanuelsson). Ernst wrote a letter confirming that his brother Otto had been an actor; had travelled to Kenya and for a short time managed a coffee farm before becoming the sommelier at The Norfolk Hotel. Re his marriage, Karen Blixen wrote in a letter to her mother 'poor girl'.

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