why do we write?
“It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I – nor for that matter anyone else – will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Still what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.”
This is a passage from the very first pages of the diary, and it ignites the fire under many a question that is to follow. Firstly, who is supposed to write? She brings out the age question. Especially young people are sometimes criticised for not having anything of worth to say, yet her tale has so much value because it is her story and no one else’s. She can offer a unique viewpoint in the midst of others. Every writer asks the same questions at some point of their writing process: Am I saying anything interesting? Who is going to listen to me? If we get into this loop, no one would ever write anything! I know – thanks to the handy chart that shows how many people actually visit my site – that my readership is sporadic and minuscule. Does that mean I should stop writing? Who am I writing for? Writing is self-expression; Anne hits the critical point when she says she wants to write. It is no about whether anyone ever sees this or if anyone cares really. This is about me. This is about getting my thoughts out there, discussion between myself and I. Like any conversation, sometimes it feels dreary, insignificant and uneventful. Then sometimes I hit the jackpot and realise something about myself or the world around me that I know could only have been figured out via writing. These are the moments that I cling to when it all seems meaningless.
Especially with diaries, there is a certain quality that attracts me. Just like Anne can look back and see the change in herself, I can see the difference between when I first started writing this blog and where I am now. Similarly, when I look at my own diary entries from years ago, I am filled with a mixture of nostalgia, embarrassment and pride. Time travelling is possible through writing and I’m sure that in the future I will look at this blog and – hopefully – see how far I’ve come.
captive yet free
Even though Anne’s family escape the camps for a relatively long period, they are still essentially prisoners. They are voluntarily trapped, hiding in a place too small for a group that size, at the mercy of their helpers for food and safety. They are in control of them, in a sense, for everything. They have to trust that they will be protected by a group of people only because they were promised they would be. Every time there is a commotion, they have to imagine it has all come to an end and that this will be the moment of discovery. They cannot go outside, they only hear what others tell them, what they hear in the radio. Why do they choose this? Is is truly by choice? Of course it is not, it is because of a terrible situation that offers no way out. They have to choose the lesser evil and play the hand they are dealt. This has quite a predictable impact on the adults, whose character changes from bad to worse throughout the experience, which is completely understandable. It made me think of those participating in Big Brother or Survivor. Even if they don’t anticipate or believe it, the experience surely changes them. Our worst attributes come out when we are under pressure, and that is only a fake situation. In Anne’s case it is painfully real.
So what about Anne? That young flower between the ages of thirteen to fifteen? She embraces a philosophy I want to learn from. She is engulfed in a sea of optimism, her light shines through the bleak reality surrounding her. Her spirit is never crushed, which gives me hope that if I just start thinking positively, I will achieve anything. Yet again, I am learning from someone younger than me, struggling with issues way beyond my capacity to grasp. How she does it is beyond me and for that I respect her. Especially when I know that this is not just a character (I really should not say that characters are secondary to real people, but I trust you know what I mean) but a real life person, telling me her story, letting me know how to survive a situation that seems insurmountable. It does not have to be a war, it does not have to be a world wide catastrophe. I can adapt this to my – in comparison – small problems. On a side note, I really hate comparing personal problems, because something insignificant to one person can really turn someone else’s life upside down. Nevertheless, – even though in the end she was captured and had to be subjected to the horrors of the holocaust – what I have been privileged to witness is a journey of a girl no one can put down and who I can look up to and say: “Look at what she went through and yet she never gave up!”
– Jatta –