21 February, 2013

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

"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 own's way."

"He who has a why to live for, can
bear with almost any how." ~ Nietzsche
Stuck in a cage of our restricted cognition, we are all prisoners. Pursuing happiness and purpose, we are constantly prone to question. What is the meaning of all this? Does my life have a higher purpose? If yes, what is it? Why is there so much pain? Why do I have to suffer?

As a Holocaust survivor who spent three years in various concentration camps in Austria, Viktor Frankl was no stranger to suffering. As a man who went from being a newly married neurologist, to a number in a prison camp, his story makes for a study in despair. And yet Frankl gathers, from the ashes of his treacherous experiences, a wealth of insights about what makes a man go on.

Narrated in first person, the book recounts life in concentration camps with an almost clinical detachment. But also audible, is the anguish of an intellectual man unable to make peace with the misery he is undergoing . Taking the reader along the journey of his suffering, Frankl finds that divested of all human dignity and comfort, and shorn of all that is compassionate and beautiful in the world, life still holds meaning. He observes that when stripped of all hope and dignity, it is love, the ability to see humour, and an inner desire to find purpose, that allows a human being to live meaningfully. He concludes (by quoting the Doctor of Despair, Dostoevsky) that only by being worthy of one's suffering, can man find meaning.

"Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved."


  1. Bucket list buddy3:41 am

    On a completely tangential note, finished Calvino yet? :)

    1. Yup finished it. I was left in a mind-loop for a few days after!

  2. Anonymous10:02 pm

    Your writing is amazing and I love the flow and subtlety in your prose. This is my favourite Frankl review.

  3. Read your blog after ages and it seems as if your writing has completely morphed into something completely different. Yet, interesting as ever...

    1. Really? You must tell me how...



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