Isak Dinesen Talks of Her Art NEW YORK &) "Air, that's what I require in a book," said Isak Dinesen, sitting in the exclusive East Side club where she stayed during her first visit to this country. "I begin my short stories with the stage, or setting," this distinguished Danish writer continued. "Of the four elements, it is air that matters most. For ine, the element in which people move comes before the people." Isak Dinesen is a pen name. Her father was William Dinesen, a writer himself, officer in the Franco-Prussian war and, curiously, a one-time visitor to our West where he was for several years a trapper with the Pawnee Indians. Her real name is Baroness Christence Karen Blixen-Finecke. But more people take of their hats now, and always will, to the abiding aristocrat Dinesen than to Blixen. Author of five books, she has had three Book-of-the-Month Club choices: "Out of Africa," "Seven Gothic Tales" and "Winter's Tales." Two new books have appeared within a year, "Last Tales' and "Anecdotes of Destiny." Theres a note of finality about one title, but the baroness said: "No, I shall never stop writing. I have just had to spend a couple of years in a hospital, and all the time there I kept thinking of new things I wanted to write." She was invited here under the auspices of the Ford Foundation Fund for the Advancement of Education and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and she made some educational films in Washington. After fulfilling all Iht duties she settled down lor a few extra weeks of pure enjoyment, with the intention of seeing New York and its museums and other cultural activities. "I'm going to accept all invitations," she said excitedly. One of was to be guest of honor at a dinner of the American Academy and National Institute. An incredibly weightless wisp of a woman, with an almost breathless, disembodied voice, she has turned in her 70s into a sort of presence as airy and fantastic as the stories which have made her famous. "Though I didn't know I was famous," she remarked, "until I came to the United States." It is here, rather than in Denmark, that she has scored her chief success. Married in 1914 to a cousin, from whom her title comes, she lived in Africa until the early 1930s helping run a coffee plantation. "There was air in Kenya," she remembered. Born at sea level, living now only 100 yards from the shore, she occupied an African plantation 6,000 feet up. "I loved the atmosphere. I never felt so well. And there were certain books, I found, that read particularly well at that altitude. Racine, for instance, did very well." She never went to school, but was brought up by governesses. She read Shakespeare, Dante, Homer, Racine, Turgeriiev. She studied painting in Paris, and was in her 40s before she achieved much success in story writing. Though it has been rumorecl that she wrote one novel under a second pseudonym, she said: "I can't write a novel. I'm a story teller, I write what is passed on by word of mouth." Her stories have plot, but also they have the "air" of which she spoke, the air for which she admired so much Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" with "its splendid feel for the mighty river." The people in her stories are not just real, they are in fact bigger than real. There is a party ghostly quality to the scenes and action, a touch of Arabian nights, of the unearthly and supernatural. Was there some connection between her birth and upbringing in an agricultural country with respected traditions, and the aloof, non-involved, cool handling, the classical or aristocratic handling, of her stories? She wasn't sure. "Democratic literature," she said, "is realistic literature. I am not a realistic writer. And my own well-springs seem to lie far back, in the Denmark I knew before I went to Africa in 1914. I do not belong as a writer to any particular generation in Denmark." She thought there was some special sensitive quality, some softness which she prized, about countries that border the sea, missing in Russia and Germany, she said, but to be found in England, France, and her native land, which has given us also Hans Christian Anderson and Kierkegaard. She loves cities. "I love Rome, I love Paris, Hove London. When I go back to London, I feel that I am going home. Now that I have seen New York with its fantastic man-made heights, I add it to the list of cities with a firm place in my consciousness."