Book Review: Man’s Search for Meaning

By Victor E. Frankl

While flicking channels a few years ago (so many things could begin with that sentence) Newsnight claimed this book  is among the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud, and that according to its author the book intends to answer the question 'How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?' -when I heard that I knew I had to read this book.

Publication Date: New edition 2004
Price: £5:00

 It begins with a lengthy, rigorous but deeply moving personal essay about Frankl's imprisonment in Auschwitz and other concentration camps for five years, and his struggle during this time to find reasons to live. This section seems unique among Holocaust accounts that I've read because Frankl approaches the topic from a psychological perspective throughout. He discusses the ways in which the different prisoners react to their imprisonment. He writes about the psychological effects of being completely dehumanized, of losing even your name, and becoming simply a number. Also he discusses the effects of not being able to contact loved ones, or even know if they are still living. Throughout reading this first section  I found myself constantly wanting to get to the point of his liberation by American troops, and how it felt to suddenly regain your freedom from such an extreme and unjust incarceration. Getting there felt like it was done the long way somehow -which is peculiar for a book of only 154 pages and may have been due to my impatience in getting to the part that most interested me, but when I got there I was nothing short of awestruck.
The second part of the book, called 'Logotherapy in a Nutshell', describes the psychotherapeutic method that Frankl pioneered as a result of his experiences in the concentration camps, this is not history but is still extremely insightful -and who says history isn't multidisciplinary anyway. To put Frankl's method into context -Freud believed that sexual instincts and urges were the driving force of humanity's life; Frankl, by contrast, believes that man's deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose -even something that may sound trivial to the reader.

This is a fascinating, sophisticated, and very human book.  At times, Frankl's personal and professional discourses merge into a style of tremendous power. 'Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is,' All I can now say is -Noodle Scratcher or Hob Nob? . . . you decide.