Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl -The Definitive Edition, 1995

"Like most of Anne Frank's readers, I had viewed her book as the innocent and spontaneous outpourings of a teenager. But now, rereading it as an adult, I quickly became convinced that I was in the presence of a consciously crafted work of literature." Francine Prose in Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife

For anyone who has only read the edition originally edited by Anne’s Frank's father in 1947, it is time to read this definitive edition, which, according to the book's foreward, adds about 30% more material to the originally published edition.  It also contains more material from a reworked version of her diary that Anne was preparing with the hopes of getting it circulated – inspired to do so by a Dutch official in exile who on the radio stated that he’d like to make diaries and letters written during the war available to the public after the war.

Anne Frank’s diary is a rarity – it’s the voice of a Jewish adolescent speaking from the grave. Anne had serious aspirations to be a writer, so the blank diary was an apt gift to her from her parents for her 13th birthday in June of 1942. She made her first entry right after her birthday when she was still living with her family at their home in Amsterdam, but a month later, in July of 1942, the family went into hiding in an annex connected to her father’s office. The rest of the entries, a little over two years’ worth, Anne writes when she is in hiding; they stop abruptly when Anne and her family and the others hiding with them were discovered and sent on a transport to Westerbork where they were then transported to Auschwitz. They were then split up, and all were either gassed or died from hunger or disease except for Anne’s father, who returned after the war and claimed the diary.

Anne was already a gifted writer as can be seen in her diary entries. She creates vivid portraits of the “characters” who, along with her, were at one and the same time condemned to be cooped up in hiding, and were very lucky to have a place to hide. She dramatizes skillfully, recreating dialogue to help a scene come alive. She describes in vivid detail how they tried to live as “normally” as possible. They prepared meals together. They celebrated every birthday, they played chess, and circulated books. And she bares her soul, so that we feel we know her intimately.

Through her artfulness we can see and hear their petty squabbles, feel the tension, the anxiety, the despair, the camaraderie and the rivalries that took place over the two years they all lived in hiding. We find their hope tragic because we know, as they didn’t, that they were sent to their deaths.

We stare at Anne Frank's very familiar picture on the cover and on pages of photos. We owe an incredible debt to Miep Gies, the non-Jewish worker who risked her own life to bring food and library books to the annex and who found Anne’s diary after the residents of the annex were arrested. She saved it, with the hope that survivors would return.

This definitive edition has a foreward that explains this particular version of the diary and an afterword that details what is known about the fates of the eight people who hid in the annex. It also includes pages of photos.

To see a preview of the Virtual Anne Frank House which will be on-line on 4/28/2010, click here. 

Michael Frank – Anne’s paternal grandfather
Alice Stern – his wife, Anne’s paternal grandmother
            Otto Frank – Anne’s father
            Edith Hollander Frank – his wife; Anne’s mother
                        Margot –Anne’s sister
                        Anne – the author of the diary
            Elfriede Makovits Geiringer - Otto Frank's second wife

The Van Pels family (called van Daan in diary)
Auguste – his wife
            Peter – their son

Fritz Pfeffer – eighth person in annex; called Albert Dussel in diary

Frankfurt am Main

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