Thursday, May 17, 2012

Views of Anne Frank

One of our best fiction writers, Francine Prose, examines The Diary of Anne Frank as a literary work in Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife. Cynthia Ozick pulled no punches when she wrote in a New Yorker article in 1997 that early editions of the diary had been “bowdlerized, distorted, transmuted, reduced; it has been infantilised, Americanized, sentimentalized, falsified.” (In a heavy dose of irony, American immigration authorities had refused to grant the Frank family an entry visa during the war.) Before it was finally picked up by Doubleday in 1952, a reader at Alfred A. Knopf found it “very dull,” calling it a “dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions.”
As Joshua Hammer wrote in The New York Times,
Prose rebuts the charge that Frank’s diary was a “found object” — the inconsequential scribblings of an adolescent whose death elevated it far beyond its value as a work of literature. In fact, Frank intended her writings to reach as wide an audience as possible, inspired by a radio address given by a Dutch minister of education in exile who was determined, once the war was over, to establish an archive of accounts of life under the Nazis. In the spring of 1944, Frank, then 15, rewrote and amended earlier entries, making scenes more vivid, deepening characters, shifting seamlessly, as Prose puts it, “from meditation to action, from narration and reflection to dialogue and dramatized scene.” .... She makes a persuasive argument for Anne Frank’s literary genius.
The room Anne shared with Fritz Pfeffer (her pictures of movie stars and royalty festoon the wall). Fritz (an adult) came to the annex alone, with no family but with a non-Jewish girlfriend to whom he risked sending letters. Anne called him a "tattletale" and "dimwitted" while he deemed her "Ill-behaved."
This 3-D, interactive exhibit at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam takes you through the moveable decoy bookcase to a tour of all the rooms of the "secret annex" in which Miep Gies protected Anne, her family, and their friends—eight people in total—for two years. In this video, Anne's descriptions take you through the hiding place.
I must confess to not having read the diary (yet). Comments from those who have would be welcome!


  1. I read Anne's diary so long ago and I can't recall much. However, I did go to the Anne Frank exhibit that was at the Holocaust Museum in DC several years and it was very moving. Much of what is in the museum in Amsterdam was brought over for the exhibit. The Holocaust Museum itself is wonderful and an emotional experience. I highly recommend for anyone to visit when in DC.

  2. I'm glad they brought it over. I've been afraid to go to the Holocaust Museum. I don't think I could handle it emotionally. Reading about the horrors and the cruelty and inhumanity is hard enough.

  3. The Museum in D.C. is an absolutely amazing tribute, as is the Memorial in Baltimore. Primo Levi's words are such an eloquent reminder. Also, noone should ever dispute the merit of Anne Frank's writing or intentions. It's easily one of the most important 20th century works. Thank you for this post!

  4. This is one of those books that I read back in high school and want to reread now because I don't think I fully appreciated it. While I'm glad I was required to read such an important book, I also think it's one that you should choose to read when you're ready.

  5. I tend to avoid the diary of Anne Frank because it makes me sad. Important issues but man are they potent.

    The adaptation of the book for the stage is really cool. The fact that Anne Frank's writing went through a transformation is interesting. But isn't her writing more important in a historical or social sense rather than a purple prosey literary style every sentence is worth a million dollars and makes you stop and write it down kind of way? Just curious...

    1. Avoiding something because it makes you sad is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. That's just what's wrong with these generations today. No respect for the past and the hardships these people went through.


    2. That's a bit unfair. I know what Hambone meant. To say that this generation has no reverence for the past is incorrect and offensive. This is neither the forum nor the post to explore generational differences.

    3. I shouldn'y ignore issues just because they are saddening. That is true.

      Thanks anonymous!

      Ms. Golightly got us off track...the villian.

      The Orioles eh?

  6. I read The diary of Anne Frank in middle school, I can't remember much o what I read. This post really makes me want to pick up the book again and maybe trek down to dc and visit The Holocaust Museum again.