The English language edition of Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Novel, out this October from Viking, an imprint of Penguin Books, is the first official graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary adapted by the duo behind the Oscar-nominated Israeli animated war documentary film and graphic novel Waltz with Bashir, writer Ari Folman and artist David Polonsky.
Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who had to go into hiding during World War Two to escape from the Nazis. Together with seven others she hid in the Secret Annex at Prinsengracht 263, in Amsterdam. After more than two years in hiding they were betrayed, discovered and deported to concentration camps. Anne’s father, Otto Frank, was the only one of the eight people to survive. After her death, Anne became world famous because of the diary she wrote while in hiding.
This 148-page graphic adaptation of the diary – released internationally last year, along with an announcement that an animated film, Where is Anne Frank, now in pre-production, would follow – brings Anne Frank’s writing visually to life on the page.
The aim is to bring one of the most extraordinary and moving stories from the 20th century to Anne Frank’s many fans, as well as to a whole new generation of readers.
The Anne Frank Fonds, the charitable foundation established by Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, in 1963 to execute Anne Frank’s literary estate, say “The Diary is one of the most significant documents of the 20th Century. It was always of the utmost importance to the Anne Frank Fonds in Basel and the Family to maintain the textual integrity and at the same time find the most appropriate manner of making the story accessible to the widest possible audience of young people.
“Ari Folman and David Polonsky, whilst respecting the authenticity and dignity of the original work, have with great sensitivity, created a uniquely graphic edition of the Diary.”
The Graphic Diary was authorised by the family and is based on the definitive Edition of The Diary of a Young Girl.
The graphic novel first appeared last year in Dutch, German, French and Spanish and is an abridged version of the original because it would take more than 3,500 pages to fully adapt it, according to Ari Folman.
However, several letters Anne Frank wrote to her imaginary friend Kitty have been included in full and Folman has said he and Polonsky had tried to “preserve Anne’s rather biting sense of humour, her sarcasm and her obsession with food.”
The original “has a lot of humour,” Polonsky says. “It is a beautiful work by a beautiful person … and the best thing we can do is just carry on this spirit and treat it as a work of art, and I am not afraid to say that it should even be a bit of entertainment.”
“When the Anne Frank Fonds decided, together with the family, to publish a graphic diary in 2009,” the charity explains on its web site, “two questions were paramount: How can we reach a young readership in the future in their own language, without making concessions in terms of the work and the persons mentioned in it; and, how can the readers’ edition continue to reach young people?
“The definitive readers’ edition is to this day read worldwide. In recent years, the readership has even grown, especially in countries where there has been new interest in Anne Frank lately. At the same time, a change is occurring in the behaviour of readers. The youth of today are socialised differently and are growing up in a different historical context and with a different educational background. Due to the Internet, images are becoming increasingly important. This is the reason for the graphic diary edition with original texts, illustrations, and images.
“… The family has supported and promoted the publication from the start, because this form corresponds with the written and oral tradition that had been running through the family all along.”
Ari Folman is an award-winning film director, screenwriter and film score composer, who wrote and directed the Oscar-nominated Waltz with Bashir, about Israeli soldiers during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which won the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2008 Golden Globe Award.
“I’m worried we’re coming to an era where there won’t be Holocaust survivors on Earth, no living witnesses to tell the story,” Folman commented when the project was first unveiled last year. Folman was born to Holocaust survivors whom he said told him and his sister “way, way too many” horrible stories from the genocide. As they disappear, “the entire story of the Holocaust risks becoming something ancient so it’s essential to find ways to preserve” interest in the Holocaust, he said during a Q&A in Paris.
David Polonsky is an award-winning illustrator and designer, who graduated from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, in 1998. His illustrations have appeared in most of Israel’s leading newspapers and magazines and he was art director on a number of a number of animated and puppet TV shows, and on Waltz with Bashir, for which he was also the lead artist for . He’s also illustrated a number of children’s books, and won the Israel Museum award for children’s book illustration in 2004 and 2008.
Since 1999 he has taught animation and illustration at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and Shenkar School of Design .
Initially, both Folman and Polonsky initially turned down the offer to adapt Anne Frank’s diary, because artistically they doubted their ability to make a contribution that would stand out from the many other versions of the story — perhaps the world’s most famous Holocaust victim following the publication in dozens of languages of her diary over the last seven decades. But Folman reconsidered after talking to his 95-year-old mother, whom she said is now “living with the goal of seeing the premiere” of the film he is making about Anne Frank.
Polonsky had similar concerns. “I was worried that Anne is a girl and we are two grown men and we wouldn’t be able to strike the right tone. But her observations are so cute and grown up that it’s not a child’s voice really,” he told Haaretz last year, but “once you realise it’s an adaptation, it’s an homage to her creation, you can play along.”
“As an illustrator,” he also told Israel Hayom, it was important to me to choose a period style that Anne herself would have felt comfortable with.”
Pre-production on the associated film, Where is Anne Frank began earlier this year, which will be followed by animation production early 2019 at Walking The Dog studios in Brussels, Doghouse Films in Luxembourg and Submarine in Amsterdam.
The film follows the story of Kitty, Anne Frank’s imaginary friend, who wakes up today in Amsterdam after a miracle, and travels on a quest all over Europe to find out what happened to Anne during the last seven months of her life, and her death, in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in February 1945, despite the absence of material on this period written by her, drawing on other historical sources to address this.
• Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Novel will be released in English by Viking on 2nd October
• More about Anne Frank at www.annefrank.ch
• David Polonsky is online at www.dpolonsky.com
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All images © Anne Frank Fonds/ the Anne Frank Foundation