Anne Frank would have been 84 this month. Born June 12, 1929 in Frankfort, Germany Anne Frank’s diary is world-renowned, even though she wrote it as a young girl of thirteen. Forty-five million copies of the diary, composed when her family and she were hiding from the Nazis during World War II, have been sold, and it has been translated into over 50 languages.
The first English edition was published in 1952, and I now realize that when my 4th grade teacher read it to our class in 1958, it was on the cusp of becoming well-known due to the Pulitzer winning play and the upcoming 1959 movie. Hearing the diary read aloud by my teacher affected me deeply. I was eleven years old, close to Anne’s age when she started writing. It was the first time I – at that time a compulsive reader of fiction – realized that the written word could not only record history, but also the real lives of the people living it. I, like many other young girls in my class, started my own diary, although I prayed never to have the horrible experiences that Anne did and contented myself with idyllic descriptions of nature and tear-stained complaints about my mother.
Anne Frank’s diary is so well-known and so many passages have been shared on the web that I thought hard about what to post here. In the end I decided on the beginning – Anne’s purpose in keeping a diary. There is so much to think about in the rest of the book, this little bit is easily overlooked and yet it speaks to us all about why we might keep a diary – or today for the technologically tuned in – a blog.
Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I have never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old school girl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing and I have an even greater need to get all kinds of things off my chest.
“Paper has more patience than people.” I thought of this saying on one of those days when I was feeling a little depressed and was sitting at home with my chin in my hands, bored and listless, wondering whether to stay in or go out. I finally stayed where I was brooding. Yes, paper does have more patience, and since I am not planning to let anyone else read this stiff-backed notebook grandly referred to as a “diary,” unless I should ever find a real friend, it probably won’t make a bit of difference. [Excerpt from Saturday June 20, 1942.]
Although later on Anne, after hearing a radio broadcast that eye-witness accounts would be collected after the war, began the process of revising her diary for possible publication, her diary never lost its original purpose – “to get things off her chest” and onto the patient paper.
Have you ever kept a diary? What was your purpose? Was the paper patient?
To learn more:
Unfinished Story Anne Frank’s short stories, fables, and poems