OF WALKING IN ICE by Werner Herzog


Munich-Paris, 23 November–14 December 1974
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Diary of a passionate quest.

In 1974, when he was 32, acclaimed film director, writer, and producer Herzog (Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo, 2010, etc.) set out on foot from Munich to Paris with the goal of saving a dying friend, the film critic and poet Lotte Eisner. For Herzog, walking was an exercise in magical thinking. “When I’m in Paris she will be alive,” he told himself. “She must not die. Later, perhaps, when we allow it.” At that point in his career, he had completed only one movie, Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972). Dozens of works, including Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) and Fitzcarraldo (1982), lay in the future. Originally published in 1978, this raw, emotional account of his three-week journey, from late November to December, reveals an astute observer, a painterly writer, and a man desperate to achieve his goal. Like a Romantic hero, Herzog finds that nature echoes his state of mind: “Dusky desolation in the forest solitude, deathly still, only the wind is stirring.” He walked through blizzards and suffered bone-chilling cold, and when he could not find an inn for the night, he buried himself under hay in barns. Sometimes, he broke into vacant homes, taking brief refuge. He sustained himself mostly on milk and tangerines; often, he was parched with thirst. His feet, in new boots, blistered and ached. He endured pain in his knee and an Achilles tendon that swelled to twice its size. He was plagued by horseflies, and his duffel bag rubbed a hole in his sweater. Suffering, though, only spurred him on. Two weeks into the journey, he was overcome by “severe despair. Long dialogues with myself and imaginary persons.” Finally, he arrives at Eisner’s bedside: she was alive, and she lived for nine more years.

A brief but poetic rendering of a fraught and wild pilgrimage.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-8166-9732-8
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2015


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