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Hope within a hopeless camp: Understanding the genius inside Viktor E. Frankl's mind.

At the very outset, let me just say that this book is an asset and a treasure to cherish for life. The subject matter is not unique in nature. However, the narrative which Frankl gives us is very deep and significant. Books having experiences of concentration camps and holocaust survivors is not uncommon. Frankl writes on the same subject matter, but his book portrayal is much more scientific and practical. This can be due to the fact that Frankl himself was a neurologist and psychologist.

I mean, we have watched so many movies, read so many books on the kind of absolute inhumane and savage treatment which the inmates of these concentrations camp had to face. These stories are filled with profound grief, distress, misery, disease and ultimately a most undignified and horrifying death. 'Man's search for meaning' is everything that I have just stated but still profoundly different from them.

The first thing which strikes one would be the use and understanding of the word: 'Hope'. This word is not exactly one that can be associated with the situation of a holocaust. But Frankl shows us that this is possible. The book primarily is the first hand account of his years in a concentration camp. It is a meagre 160 pages or so. When a very special friend of mine gifted it to me, I had thought that I would finish it in no time. But once I started reading, I understood that the book demands time, patience and careful understanding. Almost each line from it can be quoted. Kind of reminded me of authors like Paulo Coelho, (when I was in school, there was a sudden influx of Paulo Coelho readers I remember. It was almost like an intellectual statement of sorts 😬) Orhan Pamuk and Murakami. These authors tell us a story, but they are not only stating the facts. There is a continuous analysis which is going on along side the story. Frankl analyses each situation, each incident from a psychological view point of the humans involved.

After completing the book, I read up on him and was not really surprised to find out that he had founded something called the field of 'Logotherapy'. In his other books, he describes logotherapy as a process to show human beings the meaning of their life, the motivation to live life and to search for a purpose. This process developed in Frankl's mind from the deep depths of despair and extreme suffering during his days at the concentration camp. The book does glide over all the gruesome acts which were done to the inmates but pauses over how Frankl tried to lift them out of their misery. There are times that he almost gives up but then doesn't.

The book is both a journey and a realisation and I'm happy I took my own sweet time to ponder over each page, highlight the beautiful lines from almost every alternate page and let the aftermath of completing the book wash over me. To anyone reading this, this book is not a non-stop read. If you decide to read it, take your time, do not rush it. The beauty of the book is in the pace in which each one of us takes it in.

Ending with a quote from Spinoza which Frankl uses in his book, "Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it."


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