It took Werner Herzog about a month to walk from Munich to Paris back in 1971, but it’s taking me much longer than that to read his book about it, Of Walking in Ice. That’s partly because I keep getting sidetracked by other things and partly because it’s hard to absorb much of Werner’s prose in one sitting — it is oddly concentrated, sort of like uncut Bavarian marching powder.
In a village before Stotzheim I sat on the steps of a church, my feet were so tired and a sorrow was gnawing at my chest; then a window opened in the schoolhouse next door, a child was opening it following orders from inside, and then I overheard a young teacher scream so harshly at the children that I hoped no one would notice that a witness to these terrifying screams was sitting below the window. I went away, although I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. I headed towards 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. The fire-thought of ice creates the ice as swiftly as thought. Siberia was created in precisely this manner, and the Northern Lights represent its final flickering. That is the Explanation. Certain radio signals seem to confirm this, especially the intermission signals. Likewise at the end of the daily television programming, when the set buzzes and the screen is filled with snowy dots, implying the same thing. Now the order of the day is: all ashtrays must be put in place and self-control maintained! Men discuss the Hunt. The waitress dries the silverware. A church is painted on the plate, from the left a path is leading up, very sedately a costumed woman is moving there and next to her, with her back to me, a girl. I disappear with the two of them into the church. At a corner table a child is doing his homework, and often the beer is called Mutzig. The innkeeper cut his thumb days ago.
You see what I’m dealing with?