Sunday, August 9, 2015

August Reread - The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank

I think I have mentioned on this blog several times that this is one of my favorite books. I first read it when I was about 8 or so, younger than Anne was when she started her diary, and it had a profound effect on me. I couldn't believe that this young girl was murdered because of religion and politics. Anne's words made me laugh and cry and she became like a friend to me. I reread this book countless times during my childhood/teenage years, and I tried my best to do research and find out more about Anne, which was not so easy back in the days of library card catalogs and no Internet.

I still have my original copy of this book, as well as 2 other paperback editions (one belonged to a relative who passed away at a young age, so it's a remembrance of her, and her copy also had an insert with more information, which my original copy lacked; the third I picked up on a whim at some used book sale because this copy's insert was different still). Of course I also have many other books, both about Anne and her family and about the Holocaust in general; many were gifts over the years. I also have the Definitive edition of the diary, and the re-release which contains material that was initially omitted from the published diary - in some cases for good reason, but that's another rant.

During my first visit to France, I was lucky enough to stay with a French family, and I noticed a paperback "Livre de Poche" French edition of Anne's diary on their bookshelves. I told them it was one of my favorite books and they insisted that I should have this copy. I politely refused because I didn't want to take something of theirs like that, but they insisted, and I was really grateful. Now I had one of my favorite books in one of my favorite languages. My doubts about my own abilities kept me from reading this version until now, as you'll see in the French language review I will post shortly, but now I have managed to read this, as well as to reread this classic favorite, from which I've been away too long.

What can I say - it's an interesting experience to return to an old favorite after a long time. In some ways I know this book so well it's like I've memorized portions of it; to be honest, this made it easier to read the French version too. When I first read it, I was of course approaching it as a child, with a child's limited experience of the world. I could very much identify with Anne and her hopes and dreams, her issues with her mother, her romance with Peter, etc. Now as an adult, I bring the perspective of someone much closer in age to her parents, and it's hard not to want to hear the adults' perspectives as well. I also wish that Margot's diary could have been saved; it would be really fascinating to read her thoughts. And I have had the opportunity to visit the actual Achterhuis/Secret Annexe, and read a lot about Anne, her family and friends, and the Holocaust in general. But all in all this book has stood the test of time for me, and it brings me back to my old friend.

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