Friday, October 06, 2006

My New (Old) Favorite Book

I'm an avid reader, and have been for all of my life. At the Thanksgiving table one year, I told my family that I was grateful for books, and the ability to read. But I have had a hard time pinning down my favorite. Finally, after re-reading it (or listening to it on audio in the car) for the umpteenth thousand time, as well as possessing critical and definitive editions, I can probably say that my favorite book of all time is The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank.

Anne Frank was a 13 year old German Jewish girl living in Amsterdam during World War II when her family went into hiding to avoid ending up in a concentration camp. Anne, her mother Edith, her sister Margot, her father Otto, and another family, The Van Pels, and a dentist named Fritz Pheffer all hid in a secret townhouse-like duplex that adjoined her father's office in Nazi-occupied downtown Amsterdam. Anne chronicled their daily lives, as well as very articulate opinions on sex, politics, war and peace. Unfortunately, an anonymous betrayal led the Nazis to discover the hiding place and to arrest the occupants. Anne died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp a few days after her sister, Margot succumbed to typhus. Her father was the only person who survived the war, and the woman who was helping them hide presented him with Anne's diary, which she had rescued from the hiding place before the Nazis could confiscate it. Mr. Frank published the diary and a classic was born.

I love Anne's detail, accuracy, imagery and narrative. I root for her, hoping that she does make it out alive, becomes a writer and studies in Paris, like she said she wanted to. I listen to each entry to her diary, named Kitty, hoping that it won't be the last, before the epilogue that explains it's abrupt end. This afternoon, I heard the famous line: "In spite of everything, I still believe people are good at heart," and I smiled. Amazing. Despite knowing how it ends, listening to it makes me want to write again, and cools me down by putting my trivial problems in perspective. It's a beautiful paradox- a masterpiece written by a sad little kid who could have been a friend of mine in middle school. She was both noble and bratty, brave and scared, devoted to her family but craving solitude. She's just like us, but so unique. And it makes me happy that Anne Frank was, is, and hopefully will always be, loved so much, (But she'd probably tell you she'd think all the attention was rather silly.)

I don't know how I managed to avoid reading this classic in school as it seemed to be every-friggin'-where!, but I somehow I did. Maybe sometime soon I'll be able to go back and read it. :)
I didn't appreciate it until I was in college.
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