Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Title: Man’s Search for Meaning.
Writer(s): Viktor E. Frankl.
Translator(s): Ilse Lasch.
Publisher: Rider.
Format: Paperback.
Release Date: 2008 (originally published in 1946).
Pages: 154.
Genre(s): Non-Fiction.
ISBN13: 9781846041242.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.


Despair. Agony. Misery. Once plunged into the terrors akin to such psychological torment, the mind can only withstand so much before it crumbles under the weight of the darkness. It is why we fight. We fight for someone, for something. We fight for a future that we fancy, a future that we want to hold onto, like an angel’s lifebuoy in the midst of an angered sea. That is what we end up fighting for: Hope. Originally released in 1946, psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor E. Frankl survived several Nazi concentration camps during World War II and published one of the most influential books where he reflects and proposes an explanation of humankind’s ability to survive the cruelest of ordeals despite all odds being against him.

What is Man’s Search for Meaning about? The book recounts Viktor E. Frankl’s experiences as a prisoner in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. Despite being at the heart of one of the most dehumanizing events in history, he thrives from this terrifying time to further expand our knowledge on existentialism and the finer emotional fabric that envelops humanity. Split into two parts, the first presents his analysis of his struggle for survival while the second offers a succinct explanation of logotherapy. Through his own experience and the stories of his patients, Viktor E. Frankl argues and defends his theory of logotherapy by exposing, not power nor pleasure, but the pursuit of what we find meaningful, as the ultimate human drive.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Viktor E. Frankl

The first part that recounts his experience in Nazi camps is accomplished with tact yet hammers the reader into the ground through his visceral and vivid description of events. He effortlessly presents anecdotes that allow the reader to grasp the brutal and impersonal context in which he was thrown, all the while dissecting these instances to better fathom an individual’s ability to adapt and cope with excruciating and remorseless circumstances. His description of the individual’s body first crumbling to the pressures of these tortures, through untamable outcries for food and sleep, and then the mind being suffocated by the confusion, incomprehension, and disorientation, allow readers to better discern the inhumanity of these times.

The second part is a revised and updated summary of Viktor E. Frankl’s theory of logotherapy. Written with an academic approach in mind, it deconstructs his theory and explains the components of logotherapy vis-à-vis the à-la-mode psychoanalysis pioneered by Sigmund Freud. Throughout this segment, readers seize the subtle nuances that contribute to the basic principles of logotherapy and are invited to venture into the source of humanity’s willpower and explore their persistence to search for meaning. At the root of his explanations, he focuses on the idea of freedom of choice and the choice of hope, which efficiently conveys humanity’s psychological conundrum in the midst of existential trauma. This second part is ultimately an excellent contribution to the field of psychology but shouldn’t be devised as the key to all forms of trauma.

Man’s Search for Meaning is a powerful, thought-provoking, and intimate book presenting Viktor E. Frankl’s experience in WWII concentration camps and his belief that the pursuit of what we find meaningful is humanity’s primary human drive.



30 thoughts on “Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

  1. Fab review, Lashaan. I have this on my TBR, still waiting for an opportune moment. Interesting what you write about various forms of trauma and different forms of therapy. I wonder how Frankl’s theory holds up today, with cognitive and medicated therapy at the fore of PTSD treatment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Ola! I’m convinced you’ll be intrigued by this book. You’re right about Frankl’s logotherapy. I don’t think it’s a common practice either today but there are some interesting ideas to reflect upon, through its principles. Only those who connect with his approach will find it usual in some ways. Interestingly, I think, even in less tragic circumstances, there are some interesting ideas that can be useful in his theory.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is certainly a book I will read, just need to find a time when I’m ready for it. This has me remembering back when we lived in Germany and visited the Dachau concentration camp, a very sobering experience. Just the thought of walking along paths and in buildings where this kind of thing happened, imagining all the suffering and deaths. Not pleasant thoughts, but also something we should never forget.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you do get around to giving this book a shot, Todd. I’m convinced you’ll take away a lot of important life lessons through Viktor E. Frankl’s experience and knowledge. I also totally understand what you mean. I often think likewise when I pass by places where I know crazy things happened (e.g. walking by Ground Zero in NYC, walking by the very place where Ceasar got stabbed, etc.).

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  3. I cannot judge the parts that propose a new therapy, but his attempt to preserve meaning in the most dire circumstances are precious. Traces of WWII are all around in Poland, and I visited one of the labour camps recently, Frankl came to my mind while I was reading about the experiences of prisoners there.

    If you want to confront this with a radically different approach, “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen” by Tadeusz Borowski is available in English, he did not see a meaning in what happened, and I felt closer to the raw experience. Which was not pleasant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The importance of finding meaning is such a key message from the first part of this book and I thoroughly enjoyed how he conveys it. Thanks for the recommendation, I think I already have it on my TBR on Goodreads too. I recently did add a book called Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, and it made me think of you guys out there (because it’s Poland not because it’s cruel what happened there…). 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Imagine living in Oświęcim/Auschwitz… everyone heard about your hometown, but not because of that great pizza place you like so much… history marks some places. I hope to one day pay my respects in Mariupol…
        “Ordinary Men…” I heard good things about, not read it yet, these days I mostly concentrate on Polish attitudes and actions during the Holocaust, a difficult topic for us.

        Liked by 1 person

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