2015 Reading Challenge – Book #10 – The Diary of a Young Girl

Book #10 – A book originally written in another language – The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Genre: Autobiography
Published: 1947 as Het Achterbuis Dagboekbrieven 14 Juni 1942 – 1 Augustus 1944
Originally written in: Dutch
Country: Netherlands
Book to TV/Movie Adaptation: Adapted for theater in 1955 and for film in 1959. Also dramatized for television in 2001.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank 2This is a real life epistolary novel of Anne Frank, a 13 year old Jewish girl living in Amsterdam who went into hiding with her family in 1942, two years after the Nazis occupied the Netherlands.

Anne recounts all her experiences of living in the “Secret Annexe”, the hiding place in Anne’s father’s office building with her parents, elder sister and four others that included a family of three and a dentist. Living a secret existence for two years until 1944 was by no means the easiest thing to do but the eight fugitives had the constant support of a handful of close friends and co-workers who would risk their own lives and supply them with food, news and books from outside.

Like any young girl of a similar age, Anne goes through many several first-time experiences including reaching puberty, discovering her life’s purpose and surprisingly, even falling in love during these two years of being cooped up in the secret quarters. In this unabridged version, she even touches upon a few adult subjects which pique her interest. Her conflict with her mother is also described in great detail, where Anne claims that her parent does not understand her at all. She also ends up saying some very foolish and hurtful things to her father which she regrets later on. Having gone through similar troubled teen years myself, I could relate and sympathize with her parents for bearing with her and loving her unconditionally at the same time.

Despite the turbulent times, Anne was quite mature and wise beyond her thirteen or fourteen years. She was a deep thinker and keen observer of human behaviour,  painting such a vivid picture of all the different members of the house that it was easy to see their individual personalities through her eyes. Anne was a voracious reader whose interests lay in history, Greek and Roman mythology, art, poetry and searching for family trees. She also was a huge fan of film stars, the photos of whom she pasted all over her room’s walls.

I found Anne a very colourful and interesting personality – a girl with a great sense of humour, someone who maintained her ideals, had lots of opinions about everything and who could carry out deep conversations at great length. Towards the end of the book, she herself mentioned that although she sometimes acted superficially with her school peers and friends, she badly wanted someone with whom she could talk about subjects that hadn’t seen the daylight.

Only one thing was going through my mind when I read this surprisingly easy and funny book. It was how bold and fearless Anne was for a girl her age in those unstable times. She had a zest for life and an inimitable spirit that many would have lost in such a precarious situation. Despite the dismal circumstances, Anne talked of only hope, positivity and a beautiful life that was meant to be enjoyed. Anne also described in great detail, the goings on of the shared household from the conflicts that arose from living under the same roof with another family to almost being discovered by burglars and other workers in the building as well as the plight of the Jews who were not so fortunate and were caught by the Nazis.

There comes about a vast change from the thirteen year old Anne in 1942 to the almost fifteen year old in 1944. She becomes more sensible and less prone to acting out which results in some very quotable quotes. Her last entry spoke of how everyone called her a ‘little bundle of contradictions’ and how she was fighting to bring out the real Anne in her which everyone was trying to suppress. All in all, this book was a wonderful read. It took me on a roller coaster journey of happiness, misery, helplessness, fear and hope and I was left with a heavy sadness in my heart after I read the epilogue. The diary was retrieved from the Secret Annexe and given to Otto Frank, Anne’s father and the only surviving member of the family, after her death in a Nazi concentration camp. Otto edited the diary and got it published in 1947, thus fulfilling her wish of  ‘going on living after her death’.

Anne was a treasure trove of wisdom. I had a really hard time deciding which of her passages to include in this post but after much deletion, I selected the below:

1. Riches can all be lost, but that happiness in your own heart can only be veiled, and it will still bring you happiness again, as long as you live. As long as you can look fearlessly up into the heavens, as long as you know that you are pure within and that you will still find happiness.

2. And in the evening, when I lie in bed and end my prayers with the words, “I thank you God, for all that is good and dear and beautiful,” I am filled with joy. I don’t think then of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains. My advice is: “Go outside, to the fields, enjoy nature and the sunshine, go out and try to recapture happiness in yourself and God. Think of all the beauty that’s still left in and around you and be happy!” And whoever is happy will make others happy too. He who has courage and faith will never perish in misery!

3. Keep your courage up! Like I do. Although it’s not always easy, your time may come sooner than you think.

4. I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me.

5. How noble and good everyone could be if, every evening before falling asleep, they were to recall to their minds the events of the whole day and consider exactly what has been good and bad. Then, without realizing it, you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day; of course, you achieve quite a lot in the course of time. Anyone can do this, it costs nothing and is certainly very helpful. Whoever doesn’t know it must learn and find experience that: ‘A quiet conscience, makes one strong!’

6. Because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are good at heart. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.

Book Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Have you read a translated book originally written in another language that you highly recommend? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
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