Man's Search for Meaning

THIS BOOK HAS NOW LIVED TO SEE nearly one hundred printings in English—in addition to having been published in twenty-one other languages. And the English editions alone have sold more than three million copies.

These are the dry facts, and they may well be the reason why reporters of American newspapers and particularly of American TV stations more often than not start their interviews, after listing these facts, by exclaiming: “Dr. Frankl, your book has become a true bestseller—how do you feel about such a success?” Whereupon I react by reporting that in the ɹrst place I do not at all see in the bestseller status of my book an achievement and accomplishment on my part but rather an expression of the misery of our time: if hundreds of thousands of people reach out for a book whose very title promises to deal with the question of a meaning to life, it must be a question that burns under their fingernails.

To be sure, something else may have contributed to the impact of the book: its second, theoretical part (“Logother- apy in a Nutshell”) boils down, as it were, to the lesson one may distill from the ɹrst part, the autobiographical account (“Experiences in a Concentration Camp”), whereas Part One serves as the existential validation of my theories. Thus, both parts mutually support their credibility. I had none of this in mind when I wrote the book in 1945. 

And I did so within nine successive days and with the ɹrm determination that the book should be published anonymously. In fact, the ɹrst printing of the original German version does not show my name on the cover, though at the last moment, just before the book’s initial publication, I did ɹnally give in to my friends who had urged me to let it be published with my name at least on the title page. At ɹrst, however, it had been written with the absolute conviction that, as an anonymous opus, it could never earn its author literary fame. I had wanted simply to convey to the reader by way of a concrete example that life holds a potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones. 

And I thought that if the point were demonstrated in a situation as extreme as that in a concentration camp, my book might gain a hearing. I therefore felt responsible for writing down what I had gone through, for I thought it might be helpful to people who are prone to despair.

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