Our pursuit for meaning, as humans, is a long-established one. And this is what this book really delves into. The author has been able to uplift the status of a human being to as much as they really want to. In simpler words, a human being is responsible for his own actions thereby determining their meaning in life. And that is what the author wishes to communicate through this autobiographical account. The book is divided into two parts basically, the first being his experience in the Nazi concentration camps and the second is the clinical analysis of human behaviour (which can get heavy for someone who is not game for literacy in the field.)
The narration begins with the time when the author is taken as a prisoner into the Nazi concentration camp. Each of the incidents mentioned is not just hair-raising but uncomforting to the extent that you feel your nails being peeled from your fingers. It is painful, no doubt. But in all of this that one experiences as an outsider, the author presents it as human nature in its various forms. The oppressed and the oppressor are both humans operating on different levels from each other and this theory is described in such a matter-of-fact way that it makes you shift in your seat, more than a few times. The one thing that shines through the first section is that ‘hope sustains life.’ The author noted that a person who has hope in the direst of situations find situations bearable for them to survive. For the author, in fact, it was the hope that someday he would meet his wife that kept him going even at the times when illness, dejection and ill-treatment were endured by him.
To say that the book has the potential to save lives would not be untrue. The book has so many quotable quotes for inspiration, life and hope that will stay etched in your mind for a long time.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“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.”
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
“For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. 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.”
It is inspirational without being sermonic. It is wise without being imposing. It is enlightening. Grab it!
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