cover image A Young Girl's Diary

A Young Girl's Diary

Alice Miller, Anonymous, James Jennings. Anchor Books, $10.95 (189pp) ISBN 978-0-385-41596-5

When it was first published in 1919 in Vienna and in 1921 in England, this diary kept by a Viennese schoolgirl from the age of 11 to the age of 14 caused a sizable stir regarding its authenticity and its references to sexuality. Contemporary psychotherapists and analysts will enjoy debating the implications of the document's frank evocation of the sexual awakening of a cosseted girl in the sunset of the Austro-Hungarian empire, but modern lay readers may find this long-out-of print work a tame, often tediously repetitious and trivia-ridden offering--much as one would expect of an adolescent's diary. The pseudonymous Grete Lainer chafes at her imperious siblings and at restrictions set by her overbearing, loving parents; is thrilled when her father is ennobled; and is amusingly opionionated on many topics of which she is wholly ignorant. She adores her best chum, Hella, has a terrific crush on a female teacher and is obsessed with sex. She believes that all officers have venereal disease, her speculations about circumcision reveal the anti-Semitism of her milieu, and she spies on a neighbor couple as they make love and is gleefully horrified. Grete ruminates endlessly on menstruation and intercourse, both of which she refers to as It, as well as on her mother's gynecological disease (the eventual cause of her death), which Grete concludes must have been caused by It. The editors are Parisian academics, Gunn specializing in comparative literature and Guyomard in psychoanalysis and philosophy. (Mar.)