“A beau­ti­ful work by a beau­ti­ful per­son”

Anne Frank’s diary as graphic novel

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adap­ta­tion, adapted by Ari Fol­man with art­work by David Polon­sky, is pub­lished by Pan­theon Books/Ran­dom House.

Anne Frank’s ex­cep­tional legacy is rooted in the skill of her self-aware diary writ­ing and the hor­ror of her fate at the hands of the Nazis dur­ing the Holo­caust. To ex­pand that legacy into the realm of comic art, the Anne Frank Fonds (Anne Frank Foun­da­tion) ap­proached il­lus­tra­tor David Polon­sky and screen­writer Ari Fol­man about cre­at­ing a “graphic diary” with full ac­cess to the foun­da­tion’s archive. Otto Frank, Anne’s fa­ther and the only im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­ber to sur­vive the Holo­caust, founded the Anne Frank Fonds (AFF) in Basel, Switzer­land, in 1963. He wanted his daugh­ter’s diary to reach as wide a circle of read­ers as pos­si­ble while main­tain­ing and pre­serv­ing the text’s au­then­tic­ity, and these tenets are cen­tral to the foun­da­tion’s mis­sion.

The for­mat of this telling, in Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adap­ta­tion, brings Anne Frank’s ac­com­plish­ment to the aware­ness of mod­ern youth, par­tic­u­larly teenagers; Anne Frank was fif­teen years old when she died of ty­phus in the Bergen-Belsen con­cen­tra­tion camp. As part of its mis­sion to en­sure that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions re­main aware of the Holo­caust, the AFF re­leased this first au­tho­rized graphic work based on the diary that Frank wrote in an Am­s­ter­dam attic while hid­ing from the Nazis be­tween June 1942 and Au­gust 1944. The English-lan­guage edi­tion has just been pub­lished, though edi­tions came out in 2017 in He­brew and sev­eral Eu­ro­pean lan­guages.

Im­ages are be­com­ing a main­stay in the realm of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and un­der­stand­ing in the mod­ern world, the AFF notes in a state­ment. “With this in mind, we wanted to bring the diary into the twen­tyfirst cen­tury . ... Un­like most books of this genre, the graphic adap­ta­tion re­tains a sig­nif­i­cant amount of orig­i­nal text,” which dis­tin­guishes it from a typ­i­cal graphic novel. In­stead, it is first and fore­most a “diary in a graphic form.” Polon­sky and Fol­man are cre­ators of the Os­carnom­i­nated Waltz With Bashir (2008), an an­i­mated bi­o­graph­i­cal drama that de­picts the 1982 Le­banon War. For the new book, Fol­man adapted Frank’s diary en­tries and Polon­sky pro­vided the il­lus­tra­tions. They also have an an­i­mated film in the works that will cover not only the diary but the fi­nal seven months of her life, de­spite there be­ing no sur­viv­ing writ­ing by Frank cov­er­ing that pe­riod.

The graphic ver­sion of Frank’s story por­trays, like the diary it­self, the teen’s fond­ness and ad­mi­ra­tion for her fa­ther; her complicated re­la­tion­ships with her mother and sis­ter; her dreams and rev­er­ies; and her be­hav­ioral ob­ser­va­tions of the peo­ple with whom the Franks shared their attic hid­ing place. The vivid con­trast of reg­u­lar, ev­ery­day mo­ments with what we know is com­ing for Frank is one of the most pow­er­ful el­e­ments of the diary, and adding the vis­ual com­po­nent dou­bles the ef­fect. In a note to this edi­tion, Fol­man writes, “We made no at­tempt to guess in what man­ner Anne might have drawn her diary if she had been an artist in­stead of a writer.” But the adap­ta­tion em­ploys clear choices. For ex­am­ple, the au­thors por­tray Frank’s pe­ri­ods of de­s­pair as dreams or night­mares, de­vote just one page to her

many com­par­isons be­tween her­self and her sis­ter Mar­got in the diary, and turn a cou­ple of Frank’s sen­tences about attic res­i­dent Mr. Van Daan’s sausage-mak­ing into a two-page spread con­trast­ing the fam­ily’s daily life ac­tiv­i­ties with what hap­pens later.

Fol­man notes in ma­te­ri­als pro­vided by the pub­lisher that mak­ing the diary more ac­ces­si­ble is not in­tended as a re­place­ment for read­ing it. Rather, the graphic ver­sion is meant as a hook for read­ing the diary first­hand. The book is rich with im­ages in a sub­dued pal­ette that seems in­spired by early 20th-cen­tury il­lus­tra­tors like Ray­mond Briggs, Raoul Dufy, and Emil Car­dinaux. The im­ages range from scenes of wartime Am­s­ter­dam (book burn­ings, a plane crash­ing nearby, a Jew­ish woman be­ing dragged from her home by the Gestapo, lines of peo­ple wear­ing Jew­ish stars) to whim­si­cal and off­beat mo­ments drawn from Frank’s writ­ten thoughts and imaginings. One scene de­picts her re­marks about the eight peo­ple in the attic as though they were in a patch of blue sky sur­rounded by men­ac­ing clouds; an­other presents a light­hearted in­for­ma­tional “brochure” for Mr. Dus­sel, a new­comer to the hid­den group; and there are ren­der­ings of Frank in imag­ined works by Munch and Klimt.

The adap­ta­tion uses long pas­sages from the diary as vi­su­als — that is, pages of words in a font that re­sem­bles neat hand­writ­ing, em­pha­siz­ing Anne’s writ­ing abil­ity and skill. This makes even more poignant a full­page draw­ing that imag­ines Anne as an adult woman sit­ting at a desk with framed news­pa­per ar­ti­cles by her in the back­ground, in­clud­ing a mag­a­zine cover with her por­trait.

Many Holo­caust sur­vivors are now de­ceased, and pre­sent­ing Frank’s diary vis­ually for a younger mod­ern au­di­ence moves the nar­ra­tive from a time­worn tale at a far re­move. As sales fig­ures demon­strate, the graph­ic­novel genre ap­peals to con­tem­po­rary youth, and the ap­proach is seen by the AFF as a ful­fill­ment of Otto Frank’s wish to share his daugh­ter’s diary as widely as pos­si­ble with peo­ple all over the world.

In a Q&A pro­vided by the pub­lisher, Fol­man said, “I tried to dis­con­nect from the is­sue of what it means to deal with The Diary of a Young Girl as much as I could, be­cause I think the more you are fright­ened by the iconiza­tion of the lit­er­ary piece, the more you are par­a­lyzed.” Polon­sky noted that he and Fol­man think of the orig­i­nal as “a beau­ti­ful work by a beau­ti­ful per­son,” and the graphic adap­ta­tion pri­mar­ily as an homage.

There have been other graphic nov­els con­cern­ing the Holo­caust, in­clud­ing the Pulitzer-win­ning Maus (se­ri­al­ized be­tween 1980 and 1991) by car­toon­ist Art Spiegel­man, which rep­re­sents Jews as mice, Ger­mans as cats, and Poles as pigs, and was based on a long in­ter­view with the artist’s fa­ther about be­ing a sur­vivor and a Pol­ish Jew. Other il­lus­trated books pro­duced about the young di­arist’s story in­clude a 2010 Anne Frank House-au­tho­rized graphic bi­og­ra­phy by Sid Ja­cob­son and Ernie Colón. In Ja­pan, Frank has been the sub­ject of graphic nov­els in the manga style, such as Edu-Manga: Anne Frank by writer Et­suo Suzuki and artist Yoko Miyawaki (2006).

But Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adap­ta­tion is the first work specif­i­cally au­tho­rized by the AFF for his­tor­i­cal ac­cu­racy that cor­re­sponds to Frank’s ac­tual writ­ings. In the foun­da­tion’s view, Fol­man and Polon­sky’s adap­ta­tion “man­ages to jux­ta­pose and high­light the plen­ti­ful hu­mor and vi­tal­ity of the fam­ily with the ac­knowl­edged heartrend­ing and se­ri­ous con­text of the story.” Pro­ceeds from book sales and li­censes are to be do­nated by the Anne Frank Fonds to char­i­ties around the world for ed­u­ca­tional and schol­arly work.

The vivid con­trast of reg­u­lar, ev­ery­day mo­ments with what we know is com­ing for Frank is one of the most pow­er­ful el­e­ments of the diary, and adding the vis­ual com­po­nent dou­bles the ef­fect.

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