YA Wednesday: An Excerpt from John Boyne on "Man's Search for Meaning"

Seira Wilson on May 03, 2017

MansSearchYA200Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning sits alongside Elie Wiesel's Night and Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl as one of the most profound and influential memoirs ever written. In it, Frankl demonstrates an extraordinary ability to find tolerance, forgiveness, and most of all meaning in one's life within the horrors of surviving the Nazi death camps.

There is now a Young Adult edition of Frankl's work: it contains his entire Holocaust memoir, the only abridgement is in his writings on psychology.  In the YA edition there are also photographs, maps, and some of Frankl's letters and speeches. The foreword to the YA edition is from John Boyne, who's remarkable young adult novel  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, is an account of the Holocaust told from the perspective of a 9-year-old German boy, that became an international bestseller and a feature film.  Below is an excerpt from Boyne's foreword to Frankl's classic that has never seemed more necessary and timely for our society's younger generation than it is now.  

Viktor Frankl died when I was just a child, but as a novelist who has made an attempt at understanding the Holocaust through my own fiction, I have been fortunate to be part of that last group of writers to have had the privilege of meeting survivors of the camps through my travels over the years. The single most humbling experience of my professional life has been standing in community centers, halls, theaters, and on festival stages around the world while audience members have risen to recount their own memories. Talking to them afterward, feeling honored to be in their presence and a little unworthy to have written about a subject using only my imagination when their true stories are so much more powerful and authentic than my own, is something I will always cherish. And in those conversations the name of Viktor Frankl and Man’s Search for Meaning has come up time and again, alongside those other classic works that help keep the memories of that time alive. And it always will. That is his legacy.

Why do we keep writing about it? is a question that comes up time and again. I think it’s because although all powerful works of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir inspire discussion, passion, and even criticism, the joy of literature, as opposed too often to the practice of politics or religion, is that it embraces differing opinions; it encourages debate, and it allows us to have heated conversations with our closest friends and dearest loved ones. And through it all no one gets hurt, no one gets taken away from their homes, and no one gets killed. This is something that Viktor Frankl must have understood, for Man’s Search for Meaning is such a book. One to read, to cherish, to debate, and one that will ultimately keep the memories of the victims alive.

-- John Boyne

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