This week, Ruth Franklin reviews a new graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary, which was originally published in 1947 in Dutch. In 1952, Meyer Levin, the author of “Compulsion,” reviewed “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” for the Book Review. Below is an excerpt.
Anne Frank’s diary is too tenderly intimate a book to be frozen with the label “classic,” and yet no lesser designation serves. For little Anne Frank, spirited, moody, witty, self-doubting, succeeded in communicating in virtually perfect, or classic, form the drama of puberty. But her book is not a classic to be left on the library shelf. It is a warm and stirring confession, to be read over and over for insight and enjoyment.
The diary is a classic on another level, too. It happened that during the two years that mark the most extraordinary changes in a girl’s life, Anne Frank lived in astonishing circumstances: she was hidden with seven other people in a secret nest of rooms behind her father’s place of business, in Amsterdam. Thus, the diary tells the life of a group of Jews waiting in fear of being taken by the Nazis.
Anne’s diary is a great affirmative answer to the life-question of today, for she shows how ordinary people, within this ordeal, consistently hold to the greater human values.
It is this unfolding psychological drama of a girl’s growth, mingled with the physical danger of the group, that frees Anne’s book from the horizontal effect of most diaries. Hers rises continuously, with the tension of a well-constructed novel. On the plane of physical suspense, a series of burglaries in the office-warehouse dreadfully endangers the hidden group.
Psychologically, the diary contains the completely rounded story of the development of a social nature; one lives in suspense, watching it unfold: will she understand her mother; will she surmount her perplexities; will she comprehend her body-changes, so frankly described?
There is anguish in the thought of how much creative power, how much sheer beauty of living, was cut off through genocide. But through her diary Anne goes on living. From Holland to France, to Italy, Spain. The Germans too have published her book. And now she comes to America. Surely she will be widely loved, for this wise and wonderful young girl brings back a poignant delight in the infinite human spirit.