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ANNE FRANK by Francine Prose


The Book, the Life, the Afterlife

by Francine Prose

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-143079-4
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

An articulate statement of the enduring power of Anne Frank’s original work joined with a brief biography, an analysis of the 1955 play and 1959 film based on the diary, some attacks on Holocaust deniers and a few thoughts on approaches to teaching the work.

Prose (Goldengrove, 2008, etc.) first read The Diary of a Young Girl (1952) when she was a child, and later saw the original production of the play on Broadway. Recently she reread Diary and was even more impressed with its young author’s accomplishment. She believes that Frank was an artist, her diary—more accurately a memoir, the author asserts—a work of art. Prose takes us through the text, pointing out its literary merits, generally in convincing fashion, though she is sometimes so insistent and earnest an advocate that she sacrifices just a bit of credibility. The author reviews the history of the Frank family, emphasizing how Anne began as a child diarist and later, in hiding, grew into a more mature, reflective writer, revising and refining with an eye toward postwar publication. Prose properly credits the 1989 Critical Edition of the diary, the volume that first presented Frank’s versions of the diary in parallel columns—as well as the overwhelming scientific evidence of the diary’s authenticity. The author wrestles with Frank’s reputation today, at first uncomfortable with her becoming a symbol of naïve hopefulness, then forgiving of anything that draws readers to the book. Prose rehearses the internecine, nasty struggle to bring Diary to the stage, and chronicles Meyer Levin’s descent into near madness as he sought, unsuccessfully, to be the diary’s playwright. The author attacks both the stage and screen versions for their portrayals of Frank, at times, as a dimwit. She also has little good to say about the actresses who portrayed Frank. Prose also blasts the infrahuman Holocaust deniers and ends with some fairly perfunctory, even ordinary thoughts about teaching the book.

A graceful tribute and a touching act of gratitude.