Today is Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK, so I figured this was as good a time as any to read my newly acquired copy of Anne Frank‘s Tales From The Secret Annex, which I was sadly unaware of until just a couple months ago. Apparently Anne wasn’t “just” keeping a diary while in hiding, but also jotting down reminiscences of her life before the war, as well as imagining (or observing?) characters outside the attic, and drafting a few fairy tales and children’s stories for good measure. To be honest, I think the strongest “chapters” in this slim collection are the additional vignettes of daily life inside the annex, thanks to the perceptive (and often very funny, if occasionally catty) way that she portrays the uniquely aggravating/terrifying circumstances in which she found herself… whereas the fictional stuff is a little more generic, in the sense that it could have been written at any time, in any place… though her own personality, pre-occupations, and philosophy of life still shine through, loud and proud. Some fragments of her unfinished novel “Cady’s Life” do deal with a young girl whose life is rent asunder by WWII, but it’s told from the perspective of a self-proclaimed “Christian girl”, rather than a Jewish girl like herself, so it rather lacks the insight and historical interest of her autobiographical work… though the description of Cady’s brief visit to the home of a Jewish school friend’s terrified family is quite chilling, even out of context.
I’m no expert, obviously, but I get the sense that Anne (quite rightly) considered the diary her primary “mission”, so to speak, while these other stories were more like pastimes and diversions. In a better, happier world, this material would have been the flawed-but-amusing “juvenilia” of a richly talented and successful writer with a long and illustrious career… rather than the last remaining remnants of a beautiful soul, prematurely extinguished by hateful f*ckwittery. Dammit.