Interview with Francine Prose on her new book about the life and legacy of Anne Frank

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Had she survivedBergen-Belsen concentration camp, Anne Frank might have turned 80 this year.

Dead of typhus in 1945 at the age of 15, Anne Frank is perhaps the most famous young girl of all time. Her diary has been a worldwide bestseller for decades, and it inspired a Broadway play and a movie. Now David Mamet is reportedly planning to make another movie about Anne Frank's life.

When Francine Prose, a novelist and critic, read Anne Frank's diary as a girl, it moved her deeply. Rereading it a few years ago, she was moved in a different way. Ms. Prose teaches writing at Bard College, and her 2006 book,"Reading Like a Writer," is an analysis of the craft of fine writing. In her later reading of Anne Frank, Ms. Prose realized that the diary was not a guileless outburst of adolescent sentiment but a" consciously crafted work of literature." In Ms. Prose's new book,"Anne Frank: The Book, the Life and the Afterlife," she reconsiders Anne as an artist, whose eye for detail, ear for dialogue and narrative pacing make the diary read like a novel.

The Wall Street Journal: Why write a book about one of the most-read books in the world?

Ms. Prose: You can't say enough times that the Holocaust happened: People are capable of this, you have to be on guard. Also, teenaged girls are the most maligned, undervalued portion of the population, as though they're all gossip girls. They can be very smart and attuned to the world. But it isn't a demographic we associate with literary genius.

To you, Anne Frank was more than a young diarist; she was a disciplined writer.

In 1944, her last spring in the attic, she heard a Dutch minister in exile on the radio say that after the war, there would be interest in the stories of what ordinary Dutch people had suffered. That's when she got the idea of publishing her diary, and she went back to the beginning and started to rewrite. She was writing more than 10 pages a day, with no privacy, terrible food shortages, the horror of not being able to make a sound all day and the constant fear of betrayal...

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