Between November 23rd and December 14th, 1974, Werner Herzog, upon hearing his friend Lotte Eisner was on the verge of dying in Paris, walked directly from Munich to Paris believing this would somehow keep her alive. During his walk he kept a private journal that he decided to publish the following year. It was published for the first time in English last year.
I sought this book out to read of one person's plunge into feelings I've only dabbled with yet still found to be revelatory: The high of prolonged hunger and the rapture of eating, the curious impulse to start walking straight into the country with no destination in mind, and most importantly, the intense altered consciousness that results from prolonged solitude. I think the longest I've gone without talking to anyone has been four or five days but in such a short time, my self conception proved to be much more fragile than I ever would have guessed. Let it be said I no longer scoff at people sentenced to the hole in prison. I once read someone claiming that the only reason we are continuously speaking to ourselves in our minds is to prepare ourselves to immediately engage with other people. In my experience, it only takes a surprisingly short period of time with no human interaction to quiet that inner voice and revert or shift to a non-lingual mindset, one much more receptive to outside stimuli. Not to sound crazy but the most interesting interaction I've had with an animal was with two cats in one of these quiet-minded states where I felt a pure animal awareness flowing between us with no distinctions between species. That sounds crazy, forget it. Anyway, here are a few snippets I thought were telling of his mental state while on this 21 day hike:
A perfect morning; in perfect harmony with myself I'm walking briskly uphill.... For once I didn't notice that I was walking, all the way up to the mountaintop forest I was absorbed in deep thought. Perfect clarity and freshness in the air, up further there's some snow. The tangerines make me completely euphoric.
Out of sheer loneliness my voice wouldn't work so I merely squeaked; I couldn't find the correct pitch for speaking and felt embarrassed.
Today, especially en route to Senones, I felt severe despair. Long dialogues with myself and imaginary persons.The text as a whole seems fragmentary, shifting constantly between the internal and external, observations and fantasies. I wondered if he didn't write in one line bursts as he walked or all at once at the end of each day in one of the many shacks and houses he would break into to sleep in.
Also, how could you not want to read a whole book by someone like this: