One of the things I like best about The Fault in Our Stars is how beautifully Hazel Grace and Augustus’ story intersects with that of Anne Frank — who would have been 85 years old today.
The Fault in Our Stars, a bestselling young adult novel by John Green, the film version of which opened last weekend, is a love story of two dying teenagers, who share their first passionate kiss in the Anne Frank House.
Seems a little awkward and even irreverent, until you think about it a little more closely. As Hazel Grace, the doomed narrator of Fault reflects:
“Anne Frank, after all, kissed someone in the Anne Frank House [and] would probably like nothing more than for her home to have become a place where the young and irreparably broken sink into love.”
I’ve been re-reading The Diary of a Young Girl this week — and, having lately screened The Fault in Our Stars in a theater full of sobbing adolescents — have been reflecting on how the novel draws significance from the Diary.
Anne, roughly Hazel Grace’s age when she dies, wonders frequently throughout her diary whether there is a point to living and loving and writing and reading — yet she finally finds meaning in precisely those things:
I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me.
I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. But, and that is the great question, will I ever be able to write anything great?
Again and again I ask myself, would it not have been better for us all if we had not gone into hiding and if we were dead now and not going through all this misery[?] But we all recoil from these thoughts, too, for we still love life; we haven’t forgotten the voice of nature, we still hope…
In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the suffering of millions, and yet, if I look up to the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.
In thinking about Anne Frank, the same thought that nags at Hazel in Fault has always nagged at me: Anne was one of nine or ten million murdered, one of six million Jews, one of a million and a half Jewish children. We remember her birthday and her name and her precocious, vibrant mind because she unwittingly left a record. I think she’d regard it as a shame if we remembered and revered only her.
I like to think she’d encourage each of us to embrace the life we have while we draw breath now, to enjoy our loved ones, to use our gifts, to remember the great capacity human beings have for good, whatever the latest dismal headlines say, to kiss in the Anne Frank House and to be grateful even for our too-brief and often difficult lives.