The great filmmaker Werner Herzog, in his first novel, tells the incredible story of Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who defended a small island in the Philippines for twenty-nine years after the end of World War II

In 1997, Werner Herzog was in Tokyo to direct an opera. His hosts asked him, Whom would you like to meet? He replied instantly: Hiroo Onoda. Onoda was a former solider famous for having quixotically defended an island in the Philippines for decades after World War II, unaware the fighting was over. Herzog and Onoda developed an instant rapport and would meet many times, talking for hours and together unraveling the story of Onoda’s long war.
At the end of 1944, on Lubang Island in the Philippines, with Japanese troops about to withdraw, Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda was given orders by his superior officer: Hold the island until the Imperial army’s return. You are to defend its territory by guerrilla tactics, at all costs. . . . There is only one rule. You are forbidden to die by your own hand. In the event of your capture by the enemy, you are to give them all the misleading information you can. So began Onoda’s long campaign, during which he became fluent in the hidden language of the jungle. Soon weeks turned into months, months into years, and years into decades—until eventually time itself seemed to melt away. All the while Onoda continued to fight his fictitious war, at once surreal and tragic, at first with other soldiers, and then, finally, alone, a character in a novel of his own making.
In The Twilight World, Herzog immortalizes and imagines Onoda’s years of absurd yet epic struggle in an inimitable, hypnotic style—part documentary, part poem, and part dream—that will be instantly recognizable to fans of his films. The result is a novel completely unto itself, a sort of modern-day Robinson Crusoe tale: a glowing, dancing meditation on the purpose and meaning we give our lives.
“Filmmaker Herzog draws on the true story of a Japanese officer who patrolled the Filipino jungle for nearly three decades after WWII, unaware the war had ended, in his fascinating debut novel . . . Onoda shares with the director’s filmic protagonists a fierce will and singular perspective. This will whet the reader’s appetite for a film version.” —Publishers Weekly

“[A] stunning tale of obsession unto madness by a master of that narrow but fruitful genre . . . Recall director Herzog’s film Aguirre, The Wrath of God, (1972) and you’ll have a key to this story, whose details he calls ‘factually correct’—mostly. In Tokyo to stage a production of Chushingura in 1997, Herzog declines an opportunity to speak with the emperor and instead asks to see Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese commando who hid on a Philippine island from 1944 until 1974. Herzog tells Onoda’s tale from the beginning . . . Herzog fans will hope for a film to come. Meanwhile, this evocation of loyalty to a lost cause serves beautifully.” —Kirkus (starred review)

“Legendary filmmaker Herzog distills a brooding, poetic novella . . . from the true story of a WWII soldier who kept up the fight until 1974 . . . Journalistic accounts and a documentary film emphasize Onoda's extreme endurance and unmatched delusion. But Herzog, ever in pursuit of deeper truths, sees in Onoda's predicament an all-too-ordinary tendency to subordinate facts to master narratives.” ―Booklist

“Herzog is internationally acclaimed as a maker of films peopled by obsessive characters struggling in wild, uncontrollable settings. . . . [His] first novel is no different. . . . Through spare language and minimal detail that recall Herzog’s screenwriting technique, together with great leaps through time, the novel spans the full 29 years of Onoda’s remarkable story while keeping the focus on him. . . . A brief but powerful and noteworthy addition to the résumé of a master storyteller; fans of Herzog’s films will see the filmmaker’s cinematic fingerprints all over this absurdist, if absorbing, story.” ―Library Journal

Praise for Werner Herzog’s Previous Books

For Guide for the Perplexed: Conversations with Paul Cronin:

“[A] magnificent volume of interviews . . . This book presents an opportunity to enjoy extended musings from one of the most fascinating minds to which we are fortunate enough to have collective access . . . Reading [Herzog] expounding on his myriad interests and obsessions, in tones that are full and fluent without ever crossing into pretentiousness or obscurity, is a tonic for the brain.” ―Hannah McGill, The Independent

“Extraordinary . . . the book is so full of marvelous passages that one could go on quoting forever . . . What is remarkable about A Guide for the Perplexed . . . is the access it provides to the furious inner excitement of one of the great artists . . . of our time.” ―Francine Prose, Prospect

A Guide for the Perplexed is a blockbuster performance of telling and hiding: remembering, denying, cursing, reliving traumas and triumphs; picking over all the project, triumphant and forgotten. This much revised and updated version of the one published in 2002 is an invaluable guide to a head-fought life and career. It is a black bible of verbiage, controlled rants and recollections, fit to stand beside any of the wandering director's savage pilgrimages.” ―Iain Sinclair, The Times Literary Supplement

“This month, Faber published A Guide for the Perplexed, a compendium of conversations between Herzog and the writer Paul Cronin . . . I'm putting my neck out and saying it's the best book I've read all year.” ―Nathalie Olah, Vice

“A spectacular read . . . offering a rare glimpse of one of the most ravenously imaginative minds of our time.” ―Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

“The heftiest and most fascinating one-stop guide that the Herzog fan, or even newcomer, could possibly ask for.” ―Seven Magazine
For Of Walking in Ice: Munich-Paris, 23 November–14 December 1974:
“Herzog's existential journey through a hostile winter landscape is one of the great modern pilgrimages—a record of physical suffering, of hallucination and ecstatic revelation, of portents and animals, of the wreckage of history and myth. Of Walking in Ice has the eerie power of the best fairytales. It hits you with the force of dreams and leaves you with the taste of snow-filled air.” —Helen Macdonald

“Surely the strangest, strongest walking book I know, it tells the story of a winter pilgrimage, made in desperation and in hope. At once a diary, a blizzard of weather and memories, and the record of a ritual: only Herzog could have written this weird, slender classic.” —Robert Macfarlane

“Herzog's pilgrimage is a fugue and an absurdist comedy as rich as anything in his cinema.” —Iain Sinclair

“A poetic rendering of a fraught and wild pilgrimage.” —Kirkus 

“Herzog’s slight narrative is captivating because his experiences humanize the legendary filmmaker. He is full of curiosity and wonder. Even when he meanders into strange asides, Herzog remains interesting.” —Publishers Weekly

“Herzog’s private dairy of his journey was first published four years later on. Titled Of Walking in Ice, it’s now being reissued by the University of Minnesota Press. It is a weird and wonderful document—a vital record of Herzog’s creation of his famous, baffling self.” —Slate

“Perversely compelling . . . Herzog’s account begs to be read aloud.” —New York Times

“Of Walking in Ice is not always particularly easy or pleasant to read. Nonetheless, Herzog’s tortuous prose makes you feel his pain. The further you read, the more you feel the anguish of the repetitiveness of walking alone.” —Full Stop

“You almost forget that Herzog must have been writing these entries at the end of the day, because of course he couldn’t walk and experience and chronicle at the same time. And yet, like film, there is a vital sense of the now in his writing.” —Film International

For Conquest of the Useless:

“Hypnotic . . . Any book by Mr. Herzog . . . turns his devotees into cryptographers. It is ever tempting to try to fathom his restless spirit and his determination to challenge fate.” —Janet Maslin, New York Times

“Reveals Herzog to be witty, compassionate, microscopically observant and―your call―either maniacally determined or admirably persevering.” —Los Angeles Times

“Stands alone as a compellingly gonzo piece of reportage. . . . As a read, Conquest flies along―but not because it’s especially plotty. Rather, it gathers its kick from the spectacle of a celebrity director escaping the late–’70s famescape into his own obsessions.” —Time Out New York

“Those who haven’t encountered Herzog on screen will undoubtedly be drawn in by the director’s lyricism, while cinephiles will relish the opportunity to retrace the steps of one on the medium’s masters.” —Publishers Weekly

“Urgent and compelling. . . . A valuable historical record and a strangely stylish, hypnotic literary work.” —Kirkus

For the Scenarios series:

“A compulsively readable, probing collection. It’s equal parts challenging and satisfying, infuriating and enlightening.” —Publishers Weekly

“Herzog seems to peer nonstop into the abyss combining vainglory, cruelty, and madness. Those are the coordinates at which Herzog geolocates humanity.” —Bookforum

“Scenarios contains more than merely dialogue in cold type. Herzog’s screenplays read like novellas—the characters are fully thought-out and the settings are vividly described, albeit in long, medium and close shots.” —Shepherd Express

“Herzog doesn’t write traditional scripts. Instead, Herzog writes scenarios which are like a hybrid of film, fiction, and prose poetry.” —Film International

“Enigmatic and imaginative, Herzog creates an unfamiliar world in each screenplay through his evocative prose.” —Publishers Weekly

“This follow-up to the previous collection, Scenarios, will please Herzog’s fans and intrepid readers of short fiction.” —Library Journal