More than 70 years later, Frankl’s philosophy still inspires.



Published for the first time in English translation, these speeches introduce the Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor’s belief in the essential meaningfulness of life.

Frankl gave these three lectures in Vienna in 1946, just nine months after his liberation from a concentration camp. Together, they offer a condensed primer to his best-known work, Man’s Search for Meaning (1946). Known as “logotherapy,” Frankl’s approach aimed to help suicidal people find meaning through creativity, love, and suffering. This was no mere intellectual construct but a pattern he observed in his patients and manifested in his own life. Fatalism is overcome, Frankl insists, by individuals creating meaning. However, this is more complicated than achieving contentment, for in a “balance sheet” view of life, bad moments outweigh good ones. Therefore, happiness cannot be the goal, he argues. Instead of asking “What can I expect from life?” he advocates flipping the question to “What does life expect of me?” Joy comes from fulfilling that duty. He gives the real-life example of a man being sent away for a life sentence: Frankl expects the prisoner would then have deemed his existence meaningless, yet when fire broke out on the prison ship, he saved 10 lives. From this, the author concludes that “none of us knows what is waiting for us” and so suicide is “the one thing that is certainly senseless.” Furthermore, illness and suffering offer opportunities for spiritual growth, whether through resistance or—if death is inevitable—acceptance. Frankl cites a terminally ill patient who could no longer work but found meaning in reading, music, and conversation. To modern readers, many of the sentences may seem convoluted while the oral format accounts for slight repetition. However, the case studies are relatable and the overall viewpoint convincing. Psychologist Daniel Goleman’s introduction, though overlong, gives useful context.

More than 70 years later, Frankl’s philosophy still inspires.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0555-2

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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