This morning the story of Anne Frank was on Biography (the television show). The diary she kept while in hiding from the Nazis was published in 1947 after her death at Bergen-Belsen in 1945 from typhus. The book has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. I read it years ago; it’s heartbreaking and real. Anne had the courage to tell it like it was, no matter how ugly.
At issue on the television show were “five missing pages” from the diary. It appears that her father, Otto, the only survivor from their hiding place, got her diary and did some editing before he gave it up for publication.
Now to be fair, it appears Anne was in the middle of some editing of her own–see www.annefrank.org for more information on versions A, B, and C of the manuscript. And all manuscripts need editing, especially incredibly important ones like this. So the question of whether or not her father should have deleted portions that did not portray his marriage in the most favorable light is for scholars to determine.
The question for me is this:
You know how on the stand, you have to promise to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”?
Well, the truth is a hard, horrible thing sometimes. People seldom want the truth; would rather have some smoothed-over, candied version of it instead. (Makes that taste go down easier.)
But I think, it is imperative to stick with the truth for a couple of reasons:
(1) For reasons of pure efficiency, it’s easier to remember the truth and therefore you don’t waste a lot of time recalling what non-truth or almost-truth you told to whom, and
(2) I believe that everything that people do has an impact–setting a wheel rolling down a hill has implications. For the wheel, for the people down below, even for the person at the top who owned the wheel. And once that wheel is on its way down the hill, you can’t get it back…it moves down the hill in ways you never expected or wanted or could have foreseen.
I never said the truth was easy. I try as hard as I can to tell the truth all the time, but I fail. One of the most important things to me now about the writing (and living) is to try try try to tell the truth, no matter how ugly or embarrassing or personal that truth is.
And figuring out what the truth is…well, that may be even harder.