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Monday, April 25, 2011

On the Misreading of Victor Frankl

Prof. Myers posts an interesting note about misreading Victor Frankl.

Prof. Myers's point is quite different from my own.  The book is often presented as the story of the triumph over the inhumanity of death camps--but I failed to find any real triumph here.  Frankl was as oppressed and impressed by the camps as any other survivor.  His triumph was a triumph of numbers and accident--not a triumph of will--or at least not exclusively.  This doesn't detract from either Frankl or what he came to understand from the experience, but it records an instance of "reading into."  There is no triumph here--there is no meaning that one can paste over the experience of the holocaust.  There is no ultimate conclusion from it except that some, for reasons of grace, will, or completely opaque causes, survive and others do not.  When the "how" of existence becomes merely mechanistic there can be no triumph. 

I have not yet found the triumph in Frankl's book and suspect that I shall not.  It is the memoir of a horror in which there was no triumph, in which to live was as difficult, perhaps more difficult than to die.  It is a book everyone should read if only to dissuade some who might perpetrate the evil again.  It is too easy to succumb to the darkness that builds a death camp if we do not have constant reminders that they exist and arise all too easily.  From the Holocaust to Rwanda to Cambodia, to ?  It has happened, and so long as we forget love or denigrate love into lust, it shall happen again.  That, perhaps is the greatest horror of the holocaust--despite one occurrence, it is so easily repeated.

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