Also known as The Diary of Anne Frank, originally written and published in Dutch language, titled Het Achterhuis. Dagboekbrieven 14 Juni 1942 – 1 Augustus 1944 (The Annex: Diary Notes 14 June 1942 – 1 August 1944) by Contact Publishing in Amsterdam in 1947
There are books that break your heart, there are books that uplift your spirits, there are books that take you on a path – but the common factor is the structure of the books. The structure is always well-defined, with its regular ups and downs. Here, we have a diary that has been published – so it imitates real life and not a structured book. It can be a jarring experience, but it leaves its impression.
At the heart of the book is the story of the coming of age of 12-year-old, forced to live in hiding in Holland due to Hitler’s attack on Jews. It is also, at heart, the story that is just that – of a girl going through puberty, experiencing emotional and physical changes – all expressed in experiences. Also at its heart, it is a story of any child who feels misunderstood. At the heart, it is also the story of the first love, the first kiss, and the excitement of the first touch and holding hands, and sneaking behind the back of the parents.
Yet, that isn’t all the diary is about. The diary, to me, spoke of the term we know as collateral damage. When leaders depend on the military, and when the nationality quotient is so high, we have collateral damage. As long as it is not us, we are okay, for the betterment of the nation. History is filled with countless examples of crimes of nationality. Often, the worst sufferers are their own people – collateral damage. This is a story of collateral damage. How a child is locked up in hiding, with not even access to fresh air, forgets anything else.
Der Mann hat einen grossen Geist
Und ist so klein von Taten!
Ironically, the above words are used by Anne for the people around her. But these stayed with me. When translated, they mean:
“The spirit of the man is great.
How puny are his deeds.”
I had the misfortune of not knowing what eventually happened to Anne Frank when I started reading. The book gave me hope. Then, in the middle, I happened to check and was heart-broken. It became more and more stressful reading, because within all the words lay a hope of a future outside the hiding, plans for the future, the doubts of whether to go to school again or not, the dream of being a writer – all these lay in the diary.
She became a writer posthumously. Only her Pim (father) remained alive from her family. She, though, became one of the most successful writers for the diary. There cannot be a literary review of the diary. As mentioned above, it doesn’t follow a structure. Practically nothing happens for over two years. You can almost feel the claustrophobia. We struggle to keep ourselves in with a pandemic going on, and this was something else. Also, it was in the midst of constant fear of being found out – and for a fate worse than death.
I would end by thanking Anne Frank for such a personal account into her life, and thereby allowing me to feel a little more human, being enriched by her journey. I hope everyone reads this and gets as uncomfortable as I did.