Ozick Speaks at Hillel
Writer Cynthia Ozick read part of her essay "Who Owns Anne Frank?" at Harvard Hillel last night, criticizing the popular conception of Anne Frank as optimistic hero.
The reading--from Quarrel & Quandary, Ozick's latest collection of essays--launched Harvard Hillel's forum series on Jewish literature and culture and was co-sponsored by Harvard Book Store.
Ozick blames everyone from Frank's father--who withheld parts of the diary from publication--to high school English teachers for eclipsing the dark, honest observations of the famous adolescent Holocaust victim.
"It's a deeply truth-telling work but it's been an instrument of surrogate truth, the pure made impure," she read.
She suggests that Frank's diary should not be widely read by young school children.
The article generated controversy when it was first published in The New Yorker in 1997, to coincide with the Broadway revival of the play.
And Ozick was not without critics last night.
"I do think it's a controversial topic. I've read the diary at certain points in my life and I think I got more out of my later reading because I read it when I was younger," said Dalia L. Rotstein '03, who is also a Crimson editor.
Ari E. Waldman '01, co-chair of the Hillel forum, also said he did not fully agree with Ozick's article.
"She spoke beautifully. But I'm a history major and I happen to believe that the diary of Anne Frank is a good piece of history, so Ms. Ozick and I might disagree there," Waldman said.
Ozick's criticism of the popular conception of Anne Frank extends to theatrical portrayals of Frank.
"The young actress who played Anne Frank on Broadway, I understand she's a student here at Harvard, Natalie Portman, reportedly concluded from her own reading that 'it's funny, it's hopeful and she's a happy person.'" Ozick said, departing briefly from her essay text.
"I mean, she was only 16 at the time and now she's a student at Harvard, so I assume she would no longer take this view," Ozick added during the question and answer period. "I just found it so amazing that she could say 'It's funny.' She was so far from who she was portraying. There's no insight at all into the character."
Ozick thanked the audience of more than 70 people for joining her, despite the draw of a presidential debate later on in the evening. She only mentioned politics once more in the evening, expressing concern for the fighting in the Middle East, saying "actions of self defense were being perceived as actions of aggression."
"I reject the political entirely," she said, paraphrasing the preface to her new collection. "Except at moments like this, when it's life and death and everything becomes political. Even a little girl hiding in an attic can become political."