Werner Herzog Reads From Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses

Rough­ly since the 2005 release of his wide­ly seen doc­u­men­tary Griz­zly Man, Wern­er Her­zog has come into great demand. He does so not just as a film­mak­er (though he has dozens and dozens of movies of many kinds to his name), or as a writer (though sev­er­al vol­umes of his diaries and one long-form inter­view have appeared as books). Many of Her­zog’s newest fans, lured into the fold by the dis­tinc­tive voiceover nar­ra­tion he records for his doc­u­men­taries, sim­ply want to hear him talk. Hav­ing grown up in Bavaria, honed his craft in Ger­man-lan­guage projects through the sev­en­ties, and more recent­ly put down roots in Los Ange­les, Her­zog com­mu­ni­cates in a man­ner some­how more basic and more intel­lec­tu­al, more and less artic­u­late, than any oth­er pub­lic per­son­al­i­ty alive. In one char­ac­ter­is­tic line from Griz­zly Man, he com­pares his view of nature to his hap­less sub­ject, the late bear enthu­si­ast Tim­o­thy Tread­well: “What haunts me is that, in all the faces of all the bears that Tread­well ever filmed, I dis­cov­er no kin­ship, no under­stand­ing, no mer­cy. I see only the over­whelm­ing indif­fer­ence of nature. To me, there is no such thing as a secret world of the bears. And this blank stare speaks only of a half-bored inter­est in food.”

If you’ve nev­er seen the movie, imag­ine those sen­tences spo­ken with a Teu­ton­i­cal­ly inflect­ed delib­er­ate­ness and the non-native Eng­lish speak­er’s slight hes­i­tan­cy about word choice. Then imag­ine it ulti­mate­ly arriv­ing at the kind of grasp of and rev­er­ence for the mean­ing of those words you tend to have to spend a lot of time star­ing into the abyss to achieve. Giv­en his inter­est in the affect­less sav­agery of the world around us, it comes as no sur­prise that Her­zog counts him­self as a fan of the nov­el­ist Cor­mac McCarthy. Pulled from an episode of NPR’s Sci­ence Fri­day, the above clip fea­tures Her­zog read­ing, and thrilling to, a pas­sage from McCarthy’s 1992 nov­el, All the Pret­ty Hors­es. “It can­not get any bet­ter,” he adds, “and for decades we have not had this lan­guage in Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture.” Crim­i­nal­ly, he did­n’t direct the adap­ta­tion of All the Pret­ty Hors­es, nor has he direct­ed any oth­er. But until the inevitable day that he does, per­haps he could just record McCarthy’s audio­books?

Relat­ed con­tent:

Wern­er Her­zog Reads “Go the F**k to Sleep” in NYC (NSFW)

An Evening With Wern­er Her­zog

Con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture: An Open Yale Course

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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