Jean Cocteau compared reading the journal of a writer after his death, as akin to receiving a long letter from an old friend. How right he was.
The circumstances in which I got hold of a copy of Anne Frank’s Diary, lends itself to fate. It was last week, a time during which I was suffering a lot emotionally and was not my usual resilient self. I had always wanted to read the book, but I didn’t quite need it to inspire as I did at that moment, when some psychic god dropped it into my hands for a cost that was almost as good as free.
I am pretty sure that Anne was one among many, who had recorded their experiences of Nazi occupation- in fact, I am sure that many Jewish writers and artists of similar persuasions, used their creativity to lessen the burdens of their hardships, so how did a young girl’s account of her time hiding under Nazi occupation of the Netherlands stand out more than the others? Undoubtedly because she had the makings of a great writer, through which her infectiously strong spirit shone.
The Diary of a Young Girl, is poetic and lyrical. It is wise, it is resilient,it is bleak but funny, it is history, it is the liberation of women(which she explores sometimes passively, yet importantly) and it is faith.
Anne and her family, hid with a dentist Fritz Pfeffer and another family the van Pels, in what was once her father’s office for just over two years. A time during which they never stepped outside(besides her father Otto Frank briefly, when the malady of hiding drove him to almost take his life). Luckily, their lives were sustained by the help of a few of Otto Frank’s former employees/friends.
In her diary, Anne writes about mundane squabbles in her hidden annexe,the shortage and poor quality of food, her love for books and constant education, despite being in hiding. She explores big themes like her belief in her faith, strained relationship with her mother, desire to be a journalist and writer, alongside her romantic dalliance and friendship with Peter van Pels. She did not write childishly, but as a curious being, who relentlessly sought knowledge and aspired to be a better version of herself.
What struck my curiosity most of all, was that although she was prone to spells of melancholy, not once did Anne question her faith. She regarded her experiences so to speak,as a store house of strength, that would lend itself useful at the end of the war.
I don’t think her premature death was worth it. But from her resilience, the world continues to learn some of life’s biggest lessons. There is a lot of worth in that.