Mon, 07 Mar 2005

The Diary of Anne Frank

Sometimes, it seems that everyone except me had to read The Diary of Anne Frank in school. (The fact that I probably got more out of the book because I didn't is a piece for another day.) While I was reading, I learned from a friend of mine that I was reading an edited version. Though it is not indicated anywhere in the copy I have, it was edited by Anne's father before publication. (This despite the declaration "unabridged" on the title page.) I am told Anne's father removed much about Anne that was specifically Jewish or related to her burgeoning sexuality. (The former because he wanted her to be a more religion-neutral hero, the latter presumably because he didn't want people reading that about his daughter.) So I suppose I'll have to read the fuller version at some point. Regardless, this one is quite good.

Anne Frank was a talented writer. She does a good job of expressing what her life was like during the two years of her family's hiding from the Germans. At times, I did feel that I was an interloper in someone else's thoughts, especially during the time when she was exploring her feelings for Peter, but that lends to the feel of the book. It tells the tale of a young girl thrust into a situation where she has little control over her life and how she manages to live with that.

I'm not sure what I think of the translation. Anne originally wrote in Dutch, which doesn't work well for a sadly monolingual American such as myself. The translation is very much one for a British audience--in addition to things like footnotes translating guilders into shillings and pence, much of Anne's translated language usage involved very British phrases like, "had a jolly good row with so-and-so." For the most part this was relatively unnoticeable, since the phrasing flowed very smoothly through my understanding, but occasionally I was struck by the contrast inherent in a Dutch girl being given a British voice. I understand the reasons for the mode of the translation, but I do wonder what exactly Anne really wrote. (For a real answer, I'd have to learn Dutch, and for a real answer, I'd probably have to grow up in Holland.)

What strikes me most is Anne's generally unflagging optimism throughout the whole book. In one of her final entries, she waxes very introspective, examining her thoughts and behaviors carefully. Near the end of that entry, she writes, "It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet, I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death."


Phil! Gold