“What have we done with Anne Frank?” questions Lola Lafon in her new novel

The well-known literary season release, Quant tu listening to this song, chronicles the night Lola Lafon spent at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. An emotionally charged experience that also allows the author to deal with her own family history.

Through the unique Man nuit au musée collection, the Stock editions offer writers the opportunity to spend a night in the museum of their choice. A pretext for a paper, which is then published.

The French writer Lola Lafon accepted the challenge and chose the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, and in particular its “annex”, to spend the night there. From June 1942, the young Jewess lived in hiding in this cramped position in the attic with seven other people. 25 months later they were all arrested and then deported. Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen camp in spring 1945. She was 15 years old.

A place of absence and emptiness

“The Anne Frank House is the museum of emptiness and absence,” Lola Lafon told RTS, before clarifying, “And that’s not a metaphor. From 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., I found myself in a place where the absence of its inhabitants prevailed.” .

A place that is also characterized by constraints. During the two years they will be there, residents will be motionless and silent most of the time, as only a handful of staff working below are aware of their presence. “And yet a work was created in this place, and that interested me,” admits Lola Lafon. A work in the form of a diary that has had the worldwide success we know since its publication in 1947.

Anne Frank, writer

The author of “Capvirer” did a lot of research beforehand and had the opportunity to speak to Laureen Nussbaum, one of the last living people to know Anne Frank and who has become a specialist in her story.

It was she who told Lola Lafon that it was the hearing of a Dutch minister in exile who, at the end of March 1944, asked residents to keep their documents, letters and writings in order to have evidence that Anne Frank had said that his diary was one day might be released. She decides to completely revise it in order to turn it into a literary work. From the status of a young girl who writes a diary, the teenager becomes a writer.

This discovery comes as a shock to Lola Lafon: Anne Frank was a real author, but she was completely ignored! “No edition, in any country, mentions Anne Frank’s own paraphrasing work. The ‘Journal’ is presented as the spontaneous work of a teenager,” she writes in her novel.

And the French writer tells how the content of this diary was later changed. Be it by removing the passages in which the young girl talks about her sexuality, or by making a play out of it on Broadway in 1955 that illuminates the love story between Anne and Peter, but interrupts any reference to Judaism or National Socialism. Or when we ask the director of the 1959 film to change the ending that was perceived as too sad.

Photo of Anne Frank’s passport in the notebooks of her diary, which she wrote in the ridges of the house in Amsterdam to which she took refuge with her parents from June 1942. [AFP]

Anne Franck worshiped and trampled upon

And unfortunately, this Anne Frank has become an icon, Lola Lafon regrets. Her diary is a horror story, but we often only remember the passages where she speaks of hope. “I wanted to see on the spot what our place is in the story of this young writer, who we absolutely don’t read everything she has to tell us about,” explains Lola Lafon again.

When you talk about Anne Frank, please don’t use the word “hope”!

Laureen Nussbaum, one of Anne Frank’s last acquaintances, in conversation with Lola Lafon

In “When do you hear this song” the question is asked: “What did we do with Anne Frank?” is the focus and guides the whole narrative. A “terrible” question that will keep Lola Lafon from entering Anne Frank’s room before dawn. “I walked around in his room all night, I couldn’t get in,” explains the author, who in the story of another teenager finally finds the strength to cross the threshold of this tiny room.

In line with your own story

But this story isn’t just about Anne Frank. It is also the opportunity for its author to have a much more intimate approach, which is to face what she says she has fled. She, a Jewish child, who hid this legacy throughout her childhood. She who distanced herself from the testimonies and films that conjured up this holocaust her family was faced with.

“I don’t know if I went to the museum to confront this story or if it was the other way around. What I’m sure of is that that night at the museum I thought he was going to be something of the order of reflection, and finally I remembered that when I was 13 my grandmother gave me an Anne Frank medal and to me had said: “Never forget”.

Interview by Nicolas Julliard

Web adaptation: Andréanne Quartier-la-Tente

“When you listen to this song”, Lola Lafon, Collection Ma nuit au musée, Stock Editions

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