Culture

What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank by Nathan Englander

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories BY Nathan Englander. Knopf. Hardcover, 224 pages. $24.

In 1941 the American journalist Dorothy Thompson published an essay called ‘Who Goes Nazi?’ She proposed ‘an interesting and somewhat macabre parlour game’ to be played at dinner parties. The concept is in the name: look around the room and everybody swings one way or the other. She runs through various guests: the sportsman bank vice-president (Nazi); the threadbare editor (not a Nazi); the scientist’s masochist wife (Nazi); the chauffeur’s grandson serving drinks (not a Nazi); the Jewish speculator who doesn’t like Jews (Nazi); the quiet Jewish man from the South (not a Nazi). In Thompson’s calculus the hyper-competitive and the habitually humiliated, ‘those who haven’t anything in them to tell them what they like and what they don’t’ go Nazi, while ‘kind, good, happy gentlemanly, secure people’ don’t.