19 July 2009

Anne Frank: The book, the life, the afterlife; Francine Prose

Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife by Francine Prose
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can understand why HarperCollins was a little nervous about this book: Prose does not play into the cult of Saint Anne. Rather, she looks at the "diary" (which, according to the evidence, was as much a literary creation - edited, reedited - as it was a documentation of Anne's thoughts and life) as the work of an author learning her craft under extraordinary circumstances.

The version I read, and the stage play I saw, in junior and high school are not the version that Anne wrote. Back then, who imagined that Anne had re-written almost the entire diary? We knew that her father had edited it somewhat, and obviously things are lost and changed when being translated, but Prose points to major changes that many may not be aware of.

Prose also looks at what happened before Anne began writing (was our vision of her, of the Annex, correct?) and what happened both to Anne, the others in the Annex and the diary after the arrest. Knowing that all, except Otto, died wasn't a surprise, although Prose seems to suggest that for many it is. Readers may be surprised to learn that it was not an immediate success as a book - rejected by a great many publishers, not a huge seller when it was published - and that the play and film were so difficult (and acrimonious) to create.

The book humanizes Anne in a way I didn't think possible, and is a definite Must Read to any one also reading the diary.

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