Anne Frank began this diary on her 13th birthday, June 14, 1942. A couple months later, her family went into hiding in Amsterdam with two other families. For two years, they lived in tense conditions. The diary closes on August 1, 1944, a couple days before their hiding place was raided and they were all arrested and sent to camps. Only Anne’s father survived.
Technically, this is a reread for me, but it’s been so long it’s like a first reading. I was about 13 when I first read Anne Frank’s diary. At the time, I thought I really could relate to Anne, but looking back, I know I wasn’t nearly as insightful or intelligent as this little girl was. My diaries from that time of my life were far inferior in content, style, and perception. I’m sure part of that was my lack of exposure to the sorts of horrors Anne had to live through, but still, I was blown away reading this by how wise she was. Far beyond her years. Her strength and resiliency astounds me.
At the same time, while I was reading, I couldn’t help feeling like I was intruding on Anne’s privacy. Mostly, this is because of a discussion I had with my sister when she read the Diary in school a couple years after me. She told me how upsetting the experience was for her, not because of the content, but because she felt it was wrong to publish someone’s diary without their permission, no matter the contribution it might make. She maintains this stance to this day, and has expanded it to include letters and other private documents.
Many people don’t want their private papers published after their deaths, and yet the public continues to be hungry for these things. People want to read Jane Austen’s letters and are sad most were burned by Cassandra. We mourn the loss of much of Sylvia Plath’s journals. Kafka might be a little peeved that the people he asked to burn his diaries published them instead. Emily Dickinson wanted all her stuff gone, and yet we have letters and poems and all sorts of things. And people want more. All of these posthumously published papers give us great insights. So the question is, where do we draw the line? If a person does not want their journals and letters published, ought we to do it against their will after their death because of how important said journals and letters might be? Or ought we to respect their wishes and destroy them?
And what if, like Anne, they never had a chance to say what they wanted, one way or another? How can we weigh the importance of her story against exposing all her private thoughts? Was it right to publish her diary?
I don’t have the answer to that. I can see the argument for both sides. I’m very grateful we have this story, but I hope that Anne wouldn’t be mortified that we do. I do admit that near the end (April 4, 1944), she wrote a passage that made me feel much better about reading the diary. Sort of an implied permission:
I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me.
Perhaps she hadn’t intended to live on after her death by this diary, but certainly she has lived on. With her life as miserable as it became, and cut so short, at least there is this one compensation: she will never be forgotten.
Note: Review date is only an approximate of when this book was read/reviewed in 2009.
Note: Originally read ~1994-ish.