In this launch of our new column on international challenged books, we are focusing on a world-renowned book that many readers never think of as a translation: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Although you may be fully aware that Anne Frank was Dutch, have you ever given any thought to the translator behind the version you read in school? Probably not.
In this and future series posts, we will focus on the reasons behind the challenges these global works have faced in both their countries of origin and in the US.
Although many articles can be found online about the challenges to Frank’s diary around the world, here is what has been gathered together on Wikipedia:
Publication in English
In 1950, the Dutch translator Rosey E. Pool made a first translation of the Diary, which was never published. At the end of 1950, another translator was found to produce an English-language version. Barbara Mooyaart-Doubleday was contracted by Vallentine, Mitchell & Co. in England, and by the end of the following year, her translation was submitted, now including the deleted passages at Otto Frank’s request. As well, Judith Jones, while working for the publisher Doubleday, read and recommended the Diary, pulling it out of the rejection pile. Jones recalled that she came across Frank’s work in a slush pile of material that had been rejected by other publishers; she was struck by a photograph of the girl on the cover of an advance copy of the French edition. “I read it all day,” she noted. “When my boss returned, I told him, ‘We have to publish this book.’ He said, ‘What? That book by that kid?'” She brought the diary to the attention of Doubleday’s New York office. “I made the book quite important because I was so taken with it, and I felt it would have a real market in America. It’s one of those seminal books that will never be forgotten,” Jones said. The book appeared in the U.S. and Great Britain in 1952, becoming a best-seller. The introduction of the English publication was written by Eleanor Roosevelt.
In 1989, an English edition of this appeared under the title of The Diary of Anne Frank: The Revised Critical Edition, including Mooyaart-Doubleday’s translation and Anne Frank’s versions A and B, based on Dutch critical version of 1986. A new translation by Susan Massotty based on the original texts was published in 1995.
In the 1960s, Otto Frank recalled his feelings when reading the diary for the first time, “For me, it was a revelation. There, was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost. I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings.” Michael Berenbaum, former director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, wrote “Precocious in style and insight, it traces her emotional growth amid adversity. In it, she wrote, ‘In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.'”
It was reported around the world that in February 2014, 265 copies of the Frank diary and other material related to the Holocaust were found to be vandalized in 31 public libraries in Tokyo, Japan. The Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed “its shock and deep concern” and, in response, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the vandalism “shameful.” Israel donated 300 copies of Anne Frank’s diary to replace the vandalized copies. An anonymous donor under the name of ‘Chiune Sugihara‘ donated two boxes of books pertaining to the Holocaust to the Tokyo central library. After media attention had subsided, police arrested an unemployed man in March. In June, prosecutors decided not to indict the suspect after he was found to be mentally incompetent. Tokyo librarians have reported that Nazi-related books such as the diary and Man’s Search for Meaning attract people with mental disorder and are subject to occasional vandalism.[better source needed]
In 2010, the Culpeper County, Virginia school system banned the 50th Anniversary “Definitive Edition” of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, due to “complaints about its sexual content and homosexual themes.” This version “includes passages previously excluded from the widely read original edition…. Some of the extra passages detail her emerging sexual desires; others include unflattering descriptions of her mother and other people living together.” After consideration, it was decided a copy of the newer version would remain in the library and classes would revert to using the older version.
In 2013, a similar controversy arose in a 7th grade setting in Northville, Michigan, focusing on explicit passages about sexuality. The mother behind the formal complaint referred to portions of the book as “pretty pornographic.”
The American Library Association stated that there have been six challenges to the book in the United States since it started keeping records on bans and challenges in 1990, and “Most of the concerns were about sexually explicit material”.
For the full Wikipedia article on the history of this work, please click here.
For more information about the challenges that face international, as well as domestic, works in the US, please visit the website of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.