Confessions to Anne Frank

dearestanne

An Israeli teen writes of “the storms and the contradictions inside me too, and mainly the passionate longing for what doesn’t yet have a name.”

by Judith Katzir

Written by bestselling Israeli author Judith Katzir, Dearest Anne (Feminist Press, 2008) is a stirring record of an Israeli artist’s coming-of-age during the 1970s and the story of a hidden, erotic love affair between a teenage girl and her married teacher. Below is an excerpt in which Rivi, the young artist, writes a letter about her life to her inspiration, Anne Frank.

 

Monday, Passover week, 4.4.1977

Dearest Anne,

Let me begin. That’s how you opened it, on the twentieth of June, forty-two, your diary in the form of letters to Kitty, your imaginary friend, who you took with you into hiding soon afterwards. The diary with the red-and-white checked cloth cover, which you received from your father on your thirteenth birthday, stretched out in front of you like a morning at the beginning of summer, bright and full of promise, with the smell of fresh paper and with endless pages waiting to be filled; here I am, Anne Frank, beginning to write, here I am beginning the exciting adventure that is my life; and you couldn’t know that your beginning wouldn’t have a continuation, and that it was so close to the end.

And here, thirty-five years later, in a golden-blue spring morning, I am beginning; our literature and composition teacher, Michaela Berg, who’s young and amazing and a fantastic teacher, gave us a Passover holiday assignment to read your diary and to write you a short letter. She promised that whoever wrote the best letter would read it to the whole school at the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony. The book Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl has been lying next to my bed ever since I got it for a bat-mitzvah present, and even though I’ve already read it three times, I read it again now, and I spent two days working on the letter. I haven’t shown it to anyone, but I think it came out quite well, and I’m holding thumbs for Michaela to choose me to read it at the ceremony. (If she says it’s any good—I’ll copy it for you.)

When I wrote the composition, I discovered that I liked writing to you, to your sharp, delicate face, which couldn’t be called “pretty,” but which glows with a kind of moonlight; to your smile that’s mischievous and a little shy; and to your big slightly protuberant eyes that shine with curiosity and intelligence (in the pictures they look black-and-white; perhaps they’re dark brown or green). I especially like talking to your brave, stormy soul, “a bundle of contradictions,” as you wrote, because I feel the storms and the contradictions inside me too, and mainly the passionate longing for what doesn’t yet have a name, which may be nature and may be love and may be God and may be life itself.

I love writing too, and dream of being a writer or a poet one day. When I write a poem I’m filled with a special kind of excitement, a kind of inner warmth and intense concentration, and then nothing can hurt me, sometimes it seems to me that the world is speaking to me in hints, the sea is blinking in Morse code, the wind is whispering secrets to me, nothing is what it seems, everything is actually a sign of some other, hidden thing, and the poems I read, or write, are keys that help to understand these hints, to connect them and decipher them, in order to reveal something true and important to the soul.

When I was little, before I learned to write, I would sit for hours in the wood behind our house and arrange little flowers and pine-nuts and leaves and pine needles on old tiles I found in the storeroom, changing the order again and again, until it seemed the most beautiful and the most right, creating entire worlds for myself. When I was five years old, my mother taught me the alphabet, and since then I like arranging words. Once I still let her read my poems, but about a year ago I stopped. I showed her a poem called “a Red Rose in a City of Ice,” which I worked on a lot and I was proud of, and she read it and immediately asked if it was about her, and I wasn’t thinking of her at all when I wrote it, or about myself either, I was just writing a poem, and she didn’t even say that it was beautiful.

In poems I can’t say everything that happens to me and what I think, and since nothing seems real to me until I trap it in a net of words, I’ve decided to write a diary. (And maybe I’m just deluding myself, because how is it possible to trap the depth of the sky after the rain, the precise color of evening, the touch of the wind on your skin? Sometimes the holes in my net are too big, and lots of things fall out.) The diary will also give me a chance to practice, a kind of little laboratory where I’ll perform experiments, and improve my style.

I know that if you were, let’s say, a girl in my class, I would want us very, very much to be friends. I’ve got one good friend, Racheli Rubin, smart, sensitive, and [a] bit withdrawn, like me. We’re both kind of loners, and we don’t really care what people think of us. I can tell her almost everything, but with you I can be completely frank, and I can be sure you won’t tell my secrets to anyone. I try not to think about the fact that you’re actually dead, and that if you’d been saved and remained alive, you’d be almost forty-eight, much older than me, even older than my mother, who’s forty (but she won’t let me tell, because she wants people to think that she’s much younger). In your diary you’ve always remained thirteen to fifteen-and-two-months—exactly my own age. (I’m thirteen and a half. In November I’ll be fourteen.)

What I’d like most—now I’m taking a deep breath and saying it—what I’d like most is to be your Kitty, the one for whose eyes and heart you wrote your diary.

Excerpted from Dearest Anne by Judith Katzir. The Reuben/Rifkin Jewish Women Writers Series, a joint project of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and The Feminist Press at CUNY. © Published by The Feminist Press at The City University of New York; feministpress.org.

About the Author

Judith Katzir
Judith Katzir was born in Haifa, Israel, in 1963. Her previous works include Inland Lighthouses and Matisse Has the Sun in His Belly, for which she received the Book Publishers Association’s Platinum and Gold Book Prizes, the Prime Minister’s Prize, and the French WIZO Prize.

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