November 17, 2018

Reimagining the Diary of Anne Frank

“After living for a year and a half trapped indoors in her father’s office building, the 14-year-old Anne Frank wrote of her longing to be a regular teenager who could go outside and “look at the world.” She expressed her envy of the people who enter the building “with the wind in their clothes and the cold on their cheeks.” Beyond the walls of the hiding place she shared with seven others in the heart of Amsterdam, the Netherlands and much of Europe were under Nazi control while World War II raged and Hitler’s regime sought to exterminate Jews and others it considered less than human.

Frank’s diary became one of the most famous narratives of the Holocaust, and because it’s written from the perspective of a normal adolescent living under the most abnormal circumstances, it humanized war and genocide. Although hers is not the only such chronicle of war, or even this war in particular, it has proven its lasting impact and extraordinary reach with more than 25 million copies sold and translations into more than 70 languages in about as many years. As the events that shaped Frank’s short life slip further into the past, it’s heartening that her account continues to captivate new generations.

So it was both thrilling and disappointing to read Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, illustrated by David Polonsky and adapted by Ari Folman. The book’s carefully crafted images interpret elements of Frank’s story with beauty and humor. But passages like the one that reads, “We still love life, we haven’t yet forgotten the voice of nature, and we keep hoping,” are missing, and the girl who breathed dimension into an unfathomable history is flattened, her power diluted. Folman and Polonsky surely didn’t intend to replace the diary, but the shortcomings of the adaptation are illuminating in their way, and underscore what makes the original so potent.”

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