Anne Frank on Paper as Patience

anne frankAnne 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:

Anne Frank and her Diary: A Timeline

Unfinished Story Anne Frank’s short stories, fables, and poems

Five Things You Don’t Know About Anne Frank’s Diary


4 Replies to “Anne Frank on Paper as Patience”

  1. I was just recommended to read this post and being interested in Anne Frank (largely cause i still haven’t read her diary and know that i should) i was only two willing. Thank-you for that excerpt, it was interesting to me how almost modern it sounded! I also enjoyed this quote for obvious reasons ‘since I am not planning to let anyone else read this stiff-backed notebook grandly referred to as a “diary,”

    1. Today’s post 2/2/14 is about sharing deep secrets publically too. Pearl Buck had a severely disabled daughter that she never talked about publically till late in life.

  2. My college adviser encouraged me to keep a diary. The purpose was to improve my writing. I am still working on my writing and my patience. The process demands that I take a step back and discern.. In retrospect, I have to agree there is art form in writing in a diary. Maybe I should consider staring one again.

    1. I have kept a diaries on and off over the years. They all served different purposes on the surface, but in truth a diary is first and foremost for yourself. So definitely do keep one. But don’t worry about what you jot down. Just write. What its end use will be who knows. The one I kept while doing my dissertation research became an integral part of the final manuscript. The nightly jottings in my diary allowed me to personalize the research I did for my readers. The illustrated diaries I kept when doing ethnography captured the experience of living in a foreign culture. I can open them up today and be transported back to that time and place. On the other hand, the diaries I kept when my children were teenagers are full of pain and frustration. [The kids turned out alright, but it was harrowing at times]. I have them but I can’t bear to open them and every time I see them I think I should toss them. I would never want them or anyone else to read them. I think the patience comes from having the discipline to make time to write every day.

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