In Amsterdam, on the sunny and otherwise quiet morning of Friday, August 4, 1944, a car pulled up in front of the Opekta warehouse at 263 Prinsengracht.
That is all one needs to write, and already the reader knows who was hiding in the attic and the fate about to befall them.
These might easily have been the opening lines of American novelist Francine Prose’s complex, ferociously affectionate and tough-minded 2009 book Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife.
This non-fiction book is a work of reportage, literary analysis, cultural criticism and biography. It is a work in which Prose details her profound respect for Anne Frank’s brilliance as a writer and delves deeply into the troubled and often troubling history of her diary.
But these lines don’t come until page 63, and, by this point, Prose has already written about Anne Frank’s birth in Frankfort and her Jewish family’s flight to the Netherlands to escape the rise of the Nazis in Germany.
She has written about the decision of Anne’s family and four other Jews to go into hiding in the attic of the warehouse on Prinsengracht. And about how Anne’s diary recorded their daily life in the attic over a period of two years and a month, described their personalities and quirks and pondered her growing sexuality and her attempts to make sense of a world of violence, faith, love, hate, humor and ideals.
And she has written about the fate of the family after being betrayed. And about Anne’s death at the age of 15 from typhus at the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen in early March, 1945, a few weeks before the camp was liberated by British soldiers.
The story of the book
Now, on page 63, Prose is going back to tell the story of the book that Anne Frank wrote, the book that became known to the world as The Diary of a Young Girl.
As Prose explains, there are actually three books. Continue reading