On hearing that Lotte Eisner, the film-maker and critic, was dying, Werner Herzog made the sudden decision that he would walk from Munich to Paris where she was in the hospital. For some reason, he believed that his pain would help her live that she would still be alive as he walked over 500 miles. He set off as soon as he could carrying the minimal possessions and a map and a compass. This slender book is a record of his journey.
The walk would take him from the 23rd November to the 14th December and being winter, the weather was bitterly cold and icy. His route on the back roads would take him along the Rhine, seeking shelter by breaking into unoccupied homes and wading through the snow as his walk is hit by blizzards, rain and other season weather.
The walk that he is making is a part pilgrimage and part meditation on his life at the moment. He battles weather, exhaustion and blisters with the hope of finding his mentor alive when he reaches Paris. He observes all around him as he walks, ice that is clear as glass on a stream, a raven in the rain with its head bowed, but there is an extra element in here, he sees something beyond reality at times.
I have not seen any of his films, but understand that they possess a similar strangeness that this psychogeographical journey has. You can see he is facing his physical and mental demons as he trudges towards his destination, but there is something about the way that he writes and see the world around him that makes this special. This is a book that I found through the fantastic Backlisted Podcast that explores that rich vein of books in publishers back catalogues that don’t see the light of day that often.