Werner Herzog's book Of Walking on Ice, originally published in German in 1978, documents a three-week walking journey he took from Munich to Paris in the winter of 1974. Herzog's friend and mentor, film critic Lotte Eisner, was dying in Paris, and Herzog believed that the act of walking could save her. The English translation of Herzog's haunting and beautifully written text has just been republished by the University of Minnesota press, and Bookforum has an excerpt. Here's a sample:
No one, not a soul, intimidating stillness. Uncannily, though, in the midst of all this, a ﬁre is blazing, lit, in fact, with petrol. It’s ﬂickering, a ghostly ﬁre, wind. On the orange-colored plain below I can see sheets of rain, and the annunciation of the end of the world is glowing on the horizon, glimmering there. A train races through the land and penetrates the mountain range. Its wheels are glowing. One car erupts in ﬂames. The train stops, men try to extinguish it, but the car can no longer be extinguished. They decide to move on, to hasten, to race. The train moves, it moves into fathomless space, unwavering. In the pitch-blackness of the universe the wheels are glowing, the lone car is glowing. Unimaginable stellar catastrophes take place, entire worlds collapse into a single point. Light can no longer escape, even the profoundest blackness would seem like light and the silence would seem like thunder. The universe is ﬁlled with Nothing, it is the Yawning Black Void. Systems of Milky Ways have condensed into Un-stars. Utter blissfulness is spreading, and out of utter blissfulness now springs the Absurdity. This is the situation. A dense cloud of ﬂies and a plague of horseﬂies swirl around my head, so I’m forced to ﬂail about with my arms, yet they pursue me bloodthirstily nevertheless. How can I go shopping? They’ll throw me out of the supermarket, along with the insect plague swarming around my head.
Image: a young Werner Herzog