NYTBR: Of Walking in Ice 'begs to be read aloud.'
One of the most perversely compelling of these accounts is OF WALKING IN ICE: Munich-Paris, 23 November- 14 December 1974 (University of Minnesota, paper, $19.95), Werner Herzog’s diary (translated by Martje Herzog and Alan Greenberg) of a three-week hike through sleet, snow and winter winds, spurred by superstitious grief. Believing that his mentor, the film historian Lotte Eisner, was dying in a French hospital, Herzog persuaded himself that if he mortified his flesh by trekking to her bedside, she would be spared. During his long march west across the Bavarian countryside, his feet blister and bleed; he breaks into vacant cottages to sleep, shivers with cold, urinates into a rubber boot. He thirsts for milk and human company, yet he doggedly perseveres. (And so does Lotte Eisner.)
Herzog’s account begs to be read aloud. Seeing a lone raven, “his head bowed in the rain,” sitting “motionless and freezing,” all “wrapped in his raven’s thoughts,” Herzog writes, “A brotherly feeling flashed through me, and loneliness filled my breast.” Later, nearly delirious from the cold, he bleakly ruminates: “I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. I headed toward a fire, a fire that kept burning in front of me like a glimmering wall. It was a fire of frost, one that brings on Coldness, not Heat, one that makes water turn immediately into ice.”