March 2019 Book Club: “Man’s Search for Meaning” and “Pedro Páramo”

On Tuesday March 19 nine members of the book club met for a bonus session to discuss Viktor E Frankl’s classic Man’s Search for Meaning. Often during our voting cycles, a third-place winner will emerge in our three categories, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Classics, and as a group we’ve decided to make a concerted effort to get to more of these runners-up in the course of our series. Frankl’s study of daily life in a WWII concentration camp, and psychological theory of logotherapy, related to one’s ability to find positive meaning in life. This work led to spirited debate about the application of Frankl’s thesis in our lives, his case study analysis, and the various controversies surrounding his conclusions since the book’s publication. Despite its fame, few of us had actually read Man’s Search; we were moved by its enduring relevancy and candid, powerful story of survival.

On Wednesday, March 27 twelve members of the book club met at an alternate location, Cafe Deluxe in Foggy Bottom, to discuss the Mexican classic Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo. Our usual meeting spot, Nagomi Izakaya, was unexpectedly booked for the evening and the flexibility and patience of our members was greatly appreciated in our last minute swap for Cafe Deluxe down the street. Our consistently large crowds may necessitate some variety of meeting locations in the upcoming months! While the pacing, setting, and timeline of Rulfo’s novel challenged us, we delighted in discovering a classic revered by a neighboring culture. The novel’s vivid connection to the beauty and riches of the earth were a highlight of Rulfo’s prose. We discussed especially the novel’s gender and inter-generational dynamics and the characters’ relationship to death and the afterlife.