He sank down and back then, buttoning a shirt he had thrust on, arranging objects from his pockets on the windowsill beside him, and began to eat a roll, after offering me one. Later when he went away to get some British illustrated papers about the removal of Yeats’s body to Ireland to show me, he brought back bananas, was very surprised when I didn’t want one, and rapidly ate both.
I had so many of these little notes that I would sometimes scroll down the screen just to see them riffle up, a blur of words that sang of possibility. They belonged to the future, and I carried them, clustered, in my pocket.
The act of keeping a diary has a long history, and a tangled relationship with subjective “truth.” Although diaries have long been associated with women, Margo Culley argues in the essay “I Look at Me: Self as Subject in the Diaries of American Women” that diary-writing was not a feminized form until the second half of the nineteenth century — with the era’s shifting notions of self, the private sphere, and inner life — and again in the feminist 60s and 70s.
I am 43 years old. I am Jewish. I wrote a novel about the Holocaust. I grew up in a synagogue headed by an Auschwitz survivor and by his wife, also an Auschwitz survivor. I have taught my students work by Primo Levi, Aharon Appelfeld, Charlotte Delbo. But until this month, I had never read the diary of Anne Frank.
* Ann Marie Thornburg *
Reading Mourning Diary, I had the strange experience of feeling transported, through Barthes’s language, back across contours of my own mourning. I found myself unable to remember what it felt like be a few pages back, and I simply could not anticipate where I would be in several more. As Michael Wood notes in his review, “what is most striking in the end about this (hypothesis of a) book is its writtentracking of states of mind that writing itself can’t enter, only register.”