Book Review – Man’s Search for Meaning – Dr Viktor E. Frankl


Life is a wonderful journey of ups and downs, happy and sad moments, good and bad experience etc. The meaning of life is found when one identifies his purpose which is of course, subjective. How to find that meaning? The classic book written by Dr Viktor E. Frankl gives the answer. This book provides a different way to life and has the power to change the perspective towards life. Before going to the review, it is important to understand the background of this book.

The Background: This book revolves around the three years’ experience of Viktor Frankl during World War II. During World War II, he had to spent three years in various concentration camps like Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps. As the book says, it is the classic tribute to “hope” from the Holocaust. Holocaust was the genocide of Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II. Around six million Jews were murdered or killed by the Nazi Germany in the German occupied Europe during those years. Auschwitz camp was the dominant symbol of holocaust. As a holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl wrote memoirs of his experiences in this book. Surviving from the holocaust and developing the “logotherapy” technique, Viktor Frankl journey is commendable. The book contains a dedicated chapter on logotherapy.

In order to understand why the book is a tribute to “hope”, one can understand the experience of a man who spent three years in various concentration camps wherein death was common punishment for prisoners. There are several incidents mentioned in the book how people were carried to gas chambers and killed. Prisoners in concentration camps were having no hope whether they will see the outside world or not. This book is about survival and a man can survive when he had some reasons to survive. If there is no reason to survive, there is no reason for existence which creates what is known as “apathy”. Every prisoner suffered a lot, and these sufferings were the motives for many to commit suicides apart from normal killings. Suicides happened due to lack of hope.

It is important to note that this book was written in 9 successive days, as mentioned in the Preface.  

About the Author

Dr Viktor E. Frankl (1905-1997), born in Vienna (Austria) was the founder of logotherapy. He was the author, psychiatrist, neurologist and a holocaust survivor.  He was Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School. He was the founder of what has come to be called the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy.

Viktor Frankl, PC: Google

He had written 32 books that have been translated into 26 languages. Man’s Search for Meaning is a classic book with millions of copies sold.

About the Book

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”. This quote from Nietzsche is mentioned several times in this book. The meaning is clear, one should know the “why” to live. That why comes when one knows the meaning and purpose of his life.

The great task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life, as stressed by the author in this book. The author describes poignantly the prisoners who gave up on life, who had lost all hope for a future and were inevitably the first to die. They died less from lack of food or medicine than from lack of hope, lack of something to live for. Author kept his hope alive, and that hope kept him alive.  

This book is an inside story of a concentration camp said by one of its survivors. The prisoners in concentration camp went through several atrocities and “one five-ounce piece of bread was their only food in four days”. The thought of suicide was entertained by nearly everyone, if only for a brief time. The readers might be surprised to know how prisoners committed suicides. They committed suicides through “run into the wire”. This was a phrase used in camp to describe the most popular method of suicide – touching the electrically barbed-wire fence. Ever wondered there can be most popular method of suicide? There was a time when prisoners did not fear death. Even gas chambers lost their horrors. The author had described these experiences of concentration camp.

The author had described the experiences in concentration camp in three phases, based on the inmate’s mental reactions to camp life. These three phases are: the period following admission, the period when he is well entrenched in camp routine, and the period following his release and liberation.  The last phase was only a dream till it happened. Hope was the force behind survival including the author. In one of the incidents, a prisoner was firm and hopeful that he will be free on 31st March and he did become free but through death. The author had described this incident how and what kept him alive till 31st March.

PC: Google

The book had a very important incidents when prisoners started to have “apathy” feeling, the blunting of the emotions and the feelings that one could not care any more.  This made them insensitive to daily and hourly beatings. The author calls this “apathy” feeling a very necessary protective shell for survival as it became the necessary mechanism of self-defense.

The author had brilliantly explained the meaning and the role of sufferings in life. Life is incomplete without sufferings. According to author, suffering is similar to behaviour of gas, which can be understood by the below extract from the book

It is possible to practice art of living in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent.To draw an analogy: a man’s suffering is similar to the behaviour of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.

Suffering is omnipresent and absolutely relative. It fills the human soul completely. If analysed and thought peacefully, it is true. The author had beautifully explained what is known as “provisional existence” which prisoners in concentration camp was having. Their existence was provisional as the sufferings had no end. A man who could not see the end of his “provisional existence” was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life. This is the reason why a day in camp lasted longer than a week. The author sees such suffering in other way as such sufferings sometimes opens the gateway of opportunity to grow spiritually. This is the test of inner strength.

The author sees life in different perspective. What we expect from life does not matter, it matters what life expects from us. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for us. This is really inspirational way to look towards life as life is not “vague”. Human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes sufferings and dying, privation and death.

The book has such kind of eye-opening extracts which has the power to change the mind the perspective towards life. There is a dedicated chapter on logotherapy as well wherein the author who itself had developed this technique, had explained this concept in simple and understandable manner. Logotherapy focusses on meaning of human existence. This meaning is unique and specific and must be fulfilled by him alone. Man needs “something” for the sake to live or else it will be a “provisional existence”.

This book is an inspirational read. The journey of survivor from holocaust and finding the meaning of life is well described in the book. There are many who have always complains towards life because of the sufferings and obstacles they face. This book is a must read for them.

Lastly, I would like to conclude the review post by sharing a sentence from the book itself which is self explanatory.

Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.

After reading the review post, share your views and what you think is the “meaning” of life, in general.

Ashish Kumar

Born Player…


Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

During the golden period of life.

We normally enjoy being survived.

Even though we are not good.

We pretend to act being good.

The question arises…

What is good and when it is good?

Trying to find the answer.

We are trapped in our own mind.

Why this happens?

Answer is yet to be found.

A simple try to go…

Deep inside the heart.

Where we need to interact.

Diving the midst of our soul.

We should try to burn all memories which were foul.

Life has several layers.

We are a born player.

Sometime lost and sometimes won.

Losing does not ends the zeal.

Life is real and not a reel.

Good and bad memories will come.

Introspection too needs to be done,

to find the real “me”.

Residing inside “me’.

As nothing lasts forever.

You are a born player.

We are a born player.

  • Ashish Kumar

Usual to Unusual…



Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Everything in life was going normal.
Just like “Business as Usual.”
Morning to evening and till night.
Every day was like a fight.
Weekend was one which we used to like and wait.
As it was a formal way to take a break.
Exploring nearby and far places in the vicinity.
Provided a way to find serenity.
Going out was a normal course of business.
Be it for work, tea/kulhar or tapri tea, shopping or movie.
Our face used to thrill with positive expression.

PC: Google

The freedom of roaming here and there no more lasts.
As the world suddenly suffered the “Corona” blast.
Weather of world has changed in startled way and direction.
Work from home and social distancing is the new evolution.
Life is no more “usual” now.
Surviving in this pandemic is the priority now.
We don’t know how much it will last.
As the world is suffering from the “Corona” blast.
Life is no more “business as usual.”
As life has changed suddenly from “usual to unusual”.
As life has changed suddenly from “usual to unusual”.

– Ashish Kumar

Oh my dear…


Roses are red.
The sky is blue.
Oh my dear…
I think, I love you.

Mind is fresh.
The day I saw you.
Oh my dear…
I think, I do love you.

You make me feel joy.
We both enjoy.
You became my life.
I became your life.
This reason is enough.
For both of us to survive.
How this happened?
I have no clue.
Oh my dear…
I love you.

The day you entered in my life.
Life became more than a life.
You wanted to become my wife.
I realized, it was a lie.
When you stared at me.
Scolded brutally and badly.
I understood, everything was illusion.
Made me to go in depression.
Both were happy as the time passed.
I now realize, you were doing time pass.
Playing is good but not with heart.
At the end, it surely hurts.
Heart broke and soul collapsed.
You are not the right one, I did realized.
Collected the broken pieces of heart.
As it stuck like glue.
Oh my dear…
I hate you.
I do hate you…

– Ashish Kumar

 

Trying to paint the paper…


Living in the piece of a paper.
I am trying to paint the paper.
Left in the curse of time.
I am trying to build a new time.
Shattered with the sudden storm.
I was left in a beach of thorn.
The pain was unbearable and immense.
Like someone put an iron rod in the chest.
Tears came and heart wrenched.
Wondered how I got the bloody drench.

Shame acts and broken trust continued.
I stood and fought till I can continue.
During the midst of day and night.
Life gave me tremendous fight.
Sacrificed everything which I had.
Only thing left was the time which was bad.
I lost the battle with a brutal end.
Tried a lot to avoid that end.

Loved the fact that I still survived.
Even though I had no reason to survive.
I left the world which was never mine.
Building a new world which will be mine.
Life is such of twisted events.
Tackling them is prominent.
It takes time to forget and forgive.
Hence life must be lived.
Some time is required to move on.
As…
Living in the piece of a paper.
I am trying to paint the paper.

– Ashish Kumar