Review: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Man's Search for Meaning
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A short yet insightful account of a psychiatrist’s observations inside the Auschwitz concentration camp and Frankl’s subsequent views on logotherapy.

Pros:
– A must-read for anyone interested in how the victims of Nazi concentration camps coped both during and after their ordeal
– The second part of the book on logotherapy is insightful and applies what Frankl observed in concentration camps to everyday mental health
– It’s hard not to be in awe of Dr Frankl’s intelligence, knowledge and his work, especially when you consider the trauma he endured during WWI

Cons:
– The descriptions of the conditions in the concentration camps are written for the most part in a very detached and quite report-like way. This isn’t in any way a problem but it might not suit a reader looking for a more personal account.
– The section on logotherapy has a lot of technical language and references to field of psychotherapy that makes it hard to navigate as a layman.

Dr Frankl’s account of the living conditions within Nazi concentration camps is suitably harrowing and insightful. It was immensely refreshing to see a focus on the psychology of the victims and the neglected focus on the immediate aftermath of being liberated from the camps.
This book is a great companion to read alongside Saul Friedlander’s history of Nazi Germany and the Jews as it personalises the victims giving greater perspective on Friedlander’s celebrated accounts. As a history student, I’d recommend it to anyone interested in genocide history as the mindset of the victims relates to a few other first-hand accounts about genocide I’ve read and certainly gives you a greater understanding of how people manage to mentally cope with some of the worst of traumas.
On the same note, this book is an immensely powerful read for anyone undergoing any sort of mental health problem as it underlines an increasingly common cause of disorders. The type of thinking that encourages a person suffering in an infamously horrific concentration camp to find some sort of meaning out of their experience (and by extension, their life) is one all of us could do with learning from or at very about.

If you see a copy of this, make sure you don’t let it slip you by. You might need to do a bit of digging around the internet to get to grips with the aection of the book on logotherapy but it is worth the effort.
The short length of this book makes it a brief yet powerful read that will stick with you for some time.

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