I Know of a Cure for Everything: Salt Water . . . Sweat, or Tears, or the Salt Sea

Isak Dinesen? Tania Blixen? Karen Blixen? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The three best ways to overcome a difficulty are: (1) performing hard physical labor, (2) crying to achieve emotional release, or (3) visiting the ocean. The prominent author Isak Dinesen apparently crafted a lovely formulation for this advice:

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Isak Dinesen and Tania Blixen were pen names of Karen Blixen who wrote the books “Out of Africa” and “Babette’s Feast” which were made into award-winning movies. This article will use the name Isak Dinesen.

In 1934 Dinesen published the short story collection “Seven Gothic Tales” which included “The Deluge at Norderney”. One of the characters named Jonathan Maersk, became unhappy when he learned that his father, ship captain Clement Maersk, was not his genetic father. He visited the ocean and contemplated ending his life, but a woman in black lace unnerved him when she appeared and asked to die with him. Jonathan later spoke to his father Clement and asked whether he knew of a cure for his melancholy. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

“‘Why, yes,’ he said, ‘I know of a cure for everything: salt water.’

“‘Salt water?’ I asked him.

“‘Yes,’ he said, ‘in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.’

“I said: ‘I have tried sweat and tears. The salt sea I meant to try, but a woman in black lace prevented me.’

QI believes that the statement presented by the questioner was derived from the passage above. See the August 1934 citation for further details.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Know of a Cure for Everything: Salt Water . . . Sweat, or Tears, or the Salt Sea


  1. 1934, Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen, Introduction by Dorothy Canfield, Short Story: The Deluge at Norderney, Quote Page 39, Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, New York. (Verified with scans)