“All I can do is wait, as calmly as possible, for it to end… The whole world is waiting, and many are waiting for death.”
If any time is a good time to read Anne Frank’s diary, it’s now. The parallels between wartime and the pandemic are overwhelmingly similar. Whilst we cannot imagine the terrors of shooting, bombs, and the rise of a leader, we can relate more than ever to the sense of being trapped indoors, to not knowing what will happen next, to feeling like each day we are living is the same. For this reason, I couldn’t help but pick up this diary and see how I felt about it.
Reading Anne Frank’s diary is, in short, a surreal experience. As many of us do, I already knew a lot about her story, but reading her diary itself felt much more personal. It amazes me that these words on a page were written purely for herself, and yet now they’ve been read by millions of people around the world. I hope she knows the impact she’s made, from wherever she is, because I really feel like she’s spoken for a community of young people during the war that would otherwise have been overlooked.
What I found most interesting about this book was Anne’s conflict between her “mask” of a self (the outgoing, chatterbox she is around everyone she knows) and the deeper, more sensitive self that comes out only when is alone. At the start of the diary, I too fell into the trap of believing her mask. At the start, she seems a little over-confident and it’s hard to really understand who she is as a person. However, the more I read, the more layers of her mind she unravelled, and at heart she had such a strong, loving character. Although she never showed her more serious side to others, the diary really opened up her contemplative side, where she had much deeper reflections on the world, others and her place within it.
Anne speaks a lot in the diary about feeling distanced from others. As a girl who kept her feelings inside, she talks about her parents not really knowing her. She yearns for meaningful connections with others, where she can talk about her deepest thoughts and fears, rather than surface-level acquaintances and, as someone who also prefers closer bonds, this is something I completely relate to. It must be difficult for her father to wrap his head around, reading a diary from his daughter that is so different to who he imagined her to be. But I think it’s a really interesting notion to think about – to remind ourselves that each and every one of us have a public and private self and we are all on a journey to align them.
I think the most surprising part of this book for me was Anne’s mature attitude towards her situation and the world. As she grew older throughout the diary, there were a lot of moments that made me really stop and think about her reflections. For a young girl living in destruction, she had some positive and empowering thoughts that show just how much an awful situation like that can change you as a person. As she mentions a few times in the diary, she became independent in her time there. She learnt how to look after herself and her mind in a time when she could have easily fallen apart. And it’s remarkable that her diary captures this in action.
I’d like to finish on a quote that I think is equally empowering and heart-breaking – that shows who Anne really was inside but is saddening in light of knowing her ending.
“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”Anne Frank
Have you read Anne Frank’s diary?
I’d love to know what you thought in the comments.