What an experience this book has been. The few pages packed a punch.
I was on a Holocaust literature phase (after The Book Thief) and was looking for book recommendations that was “non-fiction but not pedantic.” I was thinking of reading something that would explain Anti-Semitism because it’s inconceivable to me how Jews seem to be hated so much that their existence has been reduced to mere prisoner numbers. I did not learn any of those in this book but I do not regret picking up this gem.
Man’s Search for Meaning is a memoir by Victor Frankl in the point of view of being both a victim of concentration camps and as a psychologist. He describes, in profound yet accessible terms, his psychological interpretation of man’s spiritual survival in seemingly unsurvivable circumstances. It’s a first-hand account of the hardships and apparent hopelessness of life as a prisoner where bodies that cannot be utilized head straight to gas chambers, and those who can still be used are exploited with the least care and concern until death, for many, and liberation, for the lucky few.
He also talks about logotherapy – a new school of thought that treats man’s existential vaccuum by spinning the view of the world from one with no hope into one that has meaning. He asserts that even if we come to unexpected conditions we have no control over, we still have a choice. What we become, within the limits of the environment which we are thrust upon, we have made out of ourselves. We can still say “yes” to life in spite of tragedies – pain, guilt, and death. Life can still be meaningful under any conditions and that the “Man who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”
So yes, that was it. Man’s Search for Meaning is not the book I wanted to read, but I’m glad I took a chance with it. Life is funny like that. It’s like the T.A.R.D.I.S. – it doesn’t always take me where I w
ant to go, but it always took me where I needed to be.