Academic journal article Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

"I Want the Diary to Be My Friend": The Imagined Friend in Anne Frank's Diary

Academic journal article Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

"I Want the Diary to Be My Friend": The Imagined Friend in Anne Frank's Diary

Article excerpt

This article provides a reading of The Diary of Anne Frank that explores its narrative complexities and dialogical nature with a focus on Frank's textual construct Kitty, her primary confidante and only friend within traumatic circumstances. Frank's friendship with this imagined addressee functions as a life-sustaining relationship that makes survival imaginable. Kitty embodies human qualities which Frank misses in the people around her, and the article approaches her as a counterpart that mirrors Frank's desire for human companionship. This urges the reader to accept the role of Kitty in a post-textual environment and to become an active recipient of Frank's letters.

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The diary Anne Frank kept from June 12, 1942 to August 1, 1944 is a very intimate document through which the reader gains insight into the devastating circumstances that dictated Jewish life during the Holocaust. It equally discloses the fundamental role and potential of writing as a way of dealing with trauma. While the image of the bookshelf that disguised the entrance to the secret annex in which the Frank family languished for over two years remains an icon of evasion, it only provides a glimpse into the different factors that constituted the youthful Anne Frank's ordeal in hiding. During the course of the diary, Frank documents everyday life which is shaped by the constant fear of being discovered, social displacement, isolation, dependence on helpers, and profound spatial incarceration. While accounts by Holocaust survivors such as Viktor Frankl, Primo Levi, and Elie Wiesel may contain very graphic depictions of unimaginable violence of life in the death camps, it is the radical confinement in cramped conditions, isolation, and constant fear of the Nazis that creates the traumatic situation Anne Frank and her family endured prior to their deportation and imprisonment in concentration camps. Although Frank is surrounded by her parents and her sister, she places more trust in her diary and thus gains a sense of belonging and companionship from it, rather than from the people who surround her. When Anne Frank writes the sentence "I want the diary to be my friend" into her journal on June 29, 1942, it is one of several instances that attest to her desperate longing for a companion during her incarceration and incredible loneliness (7). Since Frank's life is impacted significantly by the lack of a trustworthy companion, I wish to argue that her intricate construction of an imagined equal through the diary form attests to a desperate need for a confidante, under circumstances that threaten to deprive her of the mere right to be alive.

Amidst dehumanizing spatial and emotional incarceration and painful, extensive isolation, Frank develops an incredibly intimate relationship with her diary, into which she channels her loneliness and despair to such an extent that, for her, writing becomes almost synonymous with survival itself. For her, maintaining the diary generates a sense of purpose, continuity, and autonomy that she lacks in her life. Moreover, it is an immediate means of expressing intense emotions and traumatic experiences as well as ensuring her mental survival. In other words, Frank's reflective maintenance of her diary exceeds the term "life writing" and develops into a type of "survival writing." It is for this reason that I wish to focus on the neglected narrative complexities of her diary that merge profoundly with epistolary elements and, eventually, result in textual fabrication of a vivid and engaged friendship between Frank and her imaginary addressee Kitty. In considering and empathizing with Frank's profound lack of a friend and confidante who is her equal, I explore how the openness of the diary form itself allows the friendship between Anne Frank and Kitty to be born, how it enables the increasingly dialogical nature of Frank's writing that continues until the very last moment prior to Frank's arrest by Nazi officials. …

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