Early this morning I began reading a new (to me) collection of Cyntha Ozicks’s essays. I never begin at the beginning when I read essays. And, I have given myself permission to drop a book if it bores me, or speed read if I am only looking for highlights in an otherwise verbose offering. Cynthia Ozick never disappoints.
I first became captivated by her when I read The Shawl which she wrote years ago. The essay I read this morning was “Who Owns Anne Frank?” a probative piece exploring the many levels of Anne Frank’s story, and included in her collection Quarrel and Quandary. While each of us might think we already know Anne Frank, especially if we saw the movie with Natalie Portman, or visited the Prisengracht in Amsterdam as I have done, Ozick shows the reader the many angles of Anne’s story. Ozick’s thorough and literary historical analysis begs the question, Who Owns History.”
If I learned nothing else in my history program, it was history is complicated and not fixed. New investigators are constantly turning up new material. For my MA research, I investigated a murder case that occurred in East Anglia in the UK in the late nineteenth century. I analyzed it from many angles. This meant I explored much secondary information and and uncovered primary information. My experience persuaded me that even so-called primary information can be tainted and that those who wrote secondary works may have used selective judgement. Conclusion: we can be really stupid if we jump to a conclusion about any person if all we know is from a biased POV we “trust.”
In addition to conflicting sources of information and selective memory, accident and active censorship also play a role in preservation. Miep Gies, the Dutch heroine who sheltered the Frank family in hiding for two years came to the house the day after the raid. She found Anne’s diary on the floor, and placed it unopened in a desk drawer. She said later if she had known what was in the diary, she would have destroyed it because it named names.
A while back one of the bloggers I read asked “How honest can we be in writing a blog?” This is a tough question. I kept a diary when I was a teenager, but ever fearful of someone reading it, I did not write everything I was thinking, feeling or experiencing. I don’t know what happened to the diary after I left home. My Dad had a clear out and got rid of most of my stuff. I suspect he burned the diary.
I have kept journals as an adult, and many of them lie on top of an upright desk in my study collecting dust. Some day, I will burn them.
Like most bloggers, I am somewhat circumspect in what I write about my life, and if I write about a friend or family member I am cautious. For example, my DIL has a birthday this week, but I won’t post her age. That’s her below with her girlfriends on a night out, and with grandson Sean. She looks wonderful for someone who will hear from AARP next year, don’t you think?