- Anne Frank, Reviser
Sometimes students arrive in our undergraduate literature courses already familiar with an assigned book. Two years ago when I was developing Representing the Holocaust, an introductory course focused on writers who struggled to express the horrors of Nazi persecution, I anticipated that Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl would be that work. The undergraduates at my state university who are required to take our introductory courses are usually not planning to major in English and do not often identify themselves as lovers of literature, but I knew that many members of the class would have read Frank's Diary if not on their own then in middle or high school. One of the earliest and most popular books about the Holocaust, it has been "required reading in school systems throughout the United States" since the 1960s (Abramovitch 2012: 160; see also Fallace 2008: 156–57). The opportunity to accompany my students in a rereading of the book greatly interested me, for the Diary they read earlier in their lives would be different from the work they would encounter in our university classroom.
It is not just that they were now older and more mature. The difference would also be textual. In middle or high school they would have read the paperback version edited by Anne Frank's father, Otto, first published in English in 1952. This is, in effect, the elementary and secondary school edition, for it has become in current marketing lingo a young adult book. Its introduction, provided by Eleanor Roosevelt, stresses Frank's youth and youthful problems: she is, as the former first lady observes, a "sensitive and talented" teenager, writing about "her parents, her developing self-awareness, [End Page 87] the problems of growing up" ( 1993: xiii–xiv). But readers now have another paperback option offered by the same press, The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition, and that version, which my students were not likely to have read before, is the one I ordered for our course. Published in Dutch in 1991 and appearing in English in 1995, it is about 30 percent longer than the earlier English-language edition, containing Otto Frank's version plus many diary entries that he had left out. In one of the newly included entries Anne Frank's sexual curiosity prompts her to describe her genitals, another reason that this more fulsome edition has not replaced Otto Frank's version in middle and high schools.
The Netherlands Institute for War Documentation made this newer Definitive Edition both possible and desirable by publishing the comprehensive scholarly resource The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition in the 1980s. It has been supplanted by the Revised Critical Edition, which was published in Dutch in 2001 and in an English translation in 2003. Providing all of Anne Frank's writings, it also made visible for the first time the degree to which Frank revised her diaries. This magisterial work enables readers not only to see Frank's skills of expression but also to observe those skills in the making. Because it juxtaposes her first drafts with her revisions, it shows Frank's efforts to recast what she wanted to convey about both the petty annoyances and the overwhelming fright of living in secret with seven other Jews in a small suite of rooms in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. In short, it illustrates Frank's rapidly maturing ability to portray her household's struggle to elude deportation and death. But numbering more than eight hundred pages and complicated to traverse, it is not a text suitable for undergraduate classroom use.
The paperback Definitive Edition is that more user-friendly book, and though it does not distinguish Frank's first drafts from her revisions, it emphasizes her identity as a writer, and not just by providing access to more of her work. Although its back cover calls attention to Frank's youth and the reader's ability to relate to it—"Her story is that of every teenager, lived out in conditions few teenagers have ever known"—this edition's foreword tells the still little-known story of Frank's composing process. It...