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Archive for February, 2010

The Courage of Miep Gies

In addition to the well-known story of Anne Frank and her diary, writers and those who love books should consider the pivotal role of Miep Gies in ensuring that we know about Anne Frank in the first place. Miep was the woman who, among a handful of brave souls, helped to hide the Frank family (and others) in the Secret Annex. She was also the one who discovered the pages of Anne’s “diary” (actually, a loose collection of pages) on the floor of the Annex after the families were taken away. Anne hid her writings in her father’s briefcase and the arresting “officer” (an ordinary bureaucrat), stupidly threw the pages on the floor in his search for valuables. He missed the real treasure.  Miep gathered up the pages and kept them, without reading a word, until she learned that Anne had perished. That’s when she handed them over the Otto Frank and thus began a long process that took Anne’s words from the handwritten page to a published book that continues to influence people to this day. There are those who write and there are those who protect and preserve the written word,  who deliver it from the womb of inspiration and bring it into the light.

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If you thought that Anne Frank was a gifted young woman who spontaneously wrote a diary that changed the world, think again. Anne deliberately crafted her journal as a work of art and had a strong sense of audience when doing so. I strongly recommend Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife by Francine Prose for anyone interested in how Anne crafted this work as a writer, hoping it would be published when World War II was over. In fact (a surprise to those of us who thought her diary was primarily the thoughts of a “young girl”)  she was a consummate editor who rewrote significant portions of the diary after having put it aside for an entire year. I plan to write more on Anne’s and how her diary, found littered on the floor of the Secret Annex, represents a valuable lesson in creating art.

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