The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 12

Today’s pages (p64-70) concern Victor Frankl’s attitude to fate. He believed that destiny will run its own course, and his only responsibility was to his own conscience.

One day, Frank’s name appeared on the list for transportation to a ‘rest camp’. The other prisoners were all convinced that this was nothing more than a euphemism for ‘gas chamber’, but Frankl did nothing to get his name crossed off the list – even when the camp’s chief doctor told him he only had to ask.

I told him that this was not my way; that I had learned to let fate take its course. … He shook my hand silently, as though it were a farewell, not for life, but from life.

Continue reading “The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 12”

The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 11

Today’s pages (p60-64) start with the observation that, in the desperate fight for survival, the inmates could easily lose the feeling of being an individual with ‘inner freedom and personal value’.

He thought of himself then as only a part of an enormous mass of people; his existence descended to the level of animal life.

Victor Frankl notices that the inmates started to behave like sheep, when herded from one place to another by the guards.

[W]e, the sheep, thought of two things only – how to evade the bad dogs and how to get a little food. Just like sheep that crowd timidly into the centre of a herd, each of us tried to get into the middle of our formations.

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The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 10

Today’s pages (p55-60) start with what must be one of the most shockingly apposite analogies in literature.

[A] man’s suffering is similar to the behaviour of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.

The choice to use ‘gas’ for the metaphor is both macabre and entirely fitting. Continue reading “The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 10”

Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 9

(p50-55)

The prisoners’ inner life was so important to their survival, whether it was the mundane nostalgic memory of catching the bus or answering telephone, or the sublime sight of the setting sun through the tall trees of the Bavarian woods.

After admiring such a sunset, one prisoner said to another: ‘How beautiful the world could be.’ Continue reading “Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 9”

The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 8

Today’s pages (p45-51) are some of the most touching in the whole book. Frankl begins by describing, almost lightheartedly, the ‘cultural hibernation’ that took place in the concentration camps. Two exceptions to the absence of interest in art and intellect were ‘almost continuous’ discussions of politics and religion:

The depth and vigour of religious belief often surprised and moved a new arrival.

This deepening of spiritual life is Frankl’s explanation of why ‘some prisoners of a less hardy make-up often seemed to survive camp life better than did those of a robust nature’ and Frankl himself experienced moments of transcendence that aided his survival. Continue reading “The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 8”