selections from Of Walking in Ice by Werner Herzog

Our Eisner mustn’t die, she will not die, I won’t permit it. She is not dying now because she isn’t dying. Not now, no, she is not allowed to. My steps are firm. And now the earth trembles. When I move, a buffalo moves. When I rest, a mountain reposes. She wouldn’t dare! She mustn’t. She won’t. When I’m in Paris she will be alive. She must not die. Later, perhaps, when we allow it. (2)

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While walking, so many things pass through one’s head, the brain rages. (2)

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From my car I sometimes see people standing on the freeway overpasses, gazing; now I am one of them. (3)

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Only if this were a film would I consider it real. (4)

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For the first time a fear of cars. (6)

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You pass a lot of discarded rubbish as you walk. (12)

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In the house last night I peed into an old rubber boot. A hunter, with a second hunter nearby, asked me what I was looking for up there. I said I liked his dog better than I liked him. (12)

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When I looked out the window, a raven was sitting with his head bowed in the rain and didn’t move. Much later he was still sitting there, motionless and freezing and lonely and still wrapped in his raven’s thoughts. A brotherly feeling flashed through me and loneliness filled my breast. (17)

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Blisters on the balls of my toes give me trouble; had no idea that walking could hurt so much. (18)

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How much is one million steps? (20)

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The man at the petrol station gave me such an unreal look that I rushed to the john to convince myself in front of the mirror that I was still looking human. (22)

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Why is walking so full of woe? (27)

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Once I awoke with an animal sleeping on my legs. When I stirred it was even more frightened than I was. I think it was a cat. (28)

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Geisingen, tired humans in neglected villages who no longer expect anything more for themselves. (30)

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All around there are cornfields, which calls for more thinking. (32)

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Along the way I’d picked up some scraps of paper from the ground, the middle section of a pornographic magazine that someone had torn to shreds. I try to recreate how the pictures might have looked, where an arm belongs, for instance, or where the tangled limbs go. It’s striking how the women, though naked, are wearing loads of cheap jewelry. One woman is blonde, the man has bad fingernails, the rest just snippets of genitalia. (42)

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The buzzards have accompanied me all the way from Munich. (44)

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skat (n.)
a three-handed trick-taking card game with bidding, played with 32 cards.
In Schramberg, things seemed to be still in order: fried goose at the tavern, card players playing skat. (45)

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I’ve probably made several wrong decisions in a row concerning my route and, in hindsight, this has led me to the right course. What’s really bad is that after acknowledging a wrong decision, I don’t have the nerve to turn back, since I’d rather correct myself with another wrong decision. (45)

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An elderly woman gathering wood, plump and impoverished, tells me about her children one by one, when they were born, when they died. When she becomes aware that I want to go on, she talks three times as fast, shortening destinies, skipping the deaths of three children although adding them later on, unwilling to let even one fate slip away—and this in a dialect that makes it hard for me to follow what she is saying. After the demise of an entire generation of offspring, she would speak no more about herself except to say that she gathers wood, every day; I should have stayed longer. (46)

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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. (50-51)

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I get drunk on milk. (55)

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I have to wash my shirt and woolen jersey today, they both reek so strongly of me that I have to zip up my jacket whenever I’m among people. (56)

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I see ever so many mice. No one has the vaguest idea just how many mice there are in the world, it’s unimaginable. The mice rustle very lightly in the flattened grass. Only he who walks sees these mice. Across the fields, where the snow lay, they’ve dug tunnels between grass and snow; now that the snow’s gone the serpentine traces still remain. Friendship is possible with mice. (58)

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I walk straight between sun and moon. (60)

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A perfect morning; in perfect harmony with myself I’m walking briskly uphill. The potent thoughts of ski jumping make me feel light, like floating on air. Everywhere honey, beehives, and securely locked holiday homes throughout the valley. I chose the most beautiful one and contemplated breaking in then and there to stay the entire day, but it was too nice walking, so I walked. 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. (61)

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I’ve barely eaten anything all day, just tangerines, some chocolate, water from streams drunk in animal posture. The meal must be ready by now; there will be rabbit and soup. (66)

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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. (67)

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Trucks are humming past me without seeing me, the animal, under the branches. (68)

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Everyone should Walk. (69)

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As I walk the word millet, which I’ve always liked so much, just won’t leave my mind, the word lusty as well. Finding a connection between the two words becomes torture. To walk lustily works, and to reap millet with a sickle also works. But millet and lusty together doesn’t work.

[…]

My output of sweat is prodigious, as I march lustily thinking of millet. (74-75)

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I encountered a provisional enclosure for sheep, the sheep freezing and confused, looked at me and cuddling against me as if I could offer a solution, The Solution. I’ve never seen such expressions of trust as I found on the faces of those sheep in the snow. (75)

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My right foot doesn’t look too good from the long march today. The Achilles tendon is rather irritated and remains twice its proper size, also a swelling around the ankle, probably because I’d been walking all day long on the left side of the asphalt road, thereby making the left foot tread level ground, whereas the right didn’t really tread level ground since the road sloped a bit to let the rainwater flow down, and so it twisted a little with every step. Tomorrow I’ll make myself switch roadsides now and then. As long as I walked criss-cross I didn’t notice a thing. (79)

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I immediately pulled the covers of my display bed over my ears when I saw how hard it was raining outside. Please, not this again! Can the sun be losing every consecutive battle? (76)

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I can’t tell if my course is correct anymore, I let myself drift. A falling forward becomes a Walk. (78)

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“Love your bed as you love yourself” was written in chalk across the wall of a house. (91)

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Our [Lotte] Eisner—who is that? I will say it right from the start: she is the conscience of all of us, the conscience of New German Cinema, and, since Henri Langlois is now dead, probably the conscience of the entire film world. (115)

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Lotte Eisner, we want you with us even when you are a hundred years old, but I herewith release you from this terrible incantation. You are now allowed to die. (118)

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It is strange that the continuity in German film was torn asunder by the catastrophe of the Second World War. The thread had actually run out even earlier. The path led nowhere. And with the exception of just a few films and directors like Staudte and Käutner, German film no longer existed. There was a gap of an entire quarter century. That was not as dramatically felt in the field of literature and in other areas. We, the new generation of filmmakers, are a fatherless generation. We are orphans. We have only grandfathers—Murnau, Lang, Pabst, the generation of the 1920s. (118)

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