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THE TWILIGHT WORLD by Werner Herzog
Translated by Michael Hofman
The Twilight World is a fictionalised retelling of one of my favourite footnotes to World War 2: the case of Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who remained holed up in a Filipino jungle, continuing to fight for his country some thirty years after the war ended. Onoda’s is a story of absolute devotion to duty, but also one of delusion and wasted potential. Man against nature. Man against self. That it hasn’t already found its way to the page is a bit strange. That it took one of modern cinema’s greats to do so is, perhaps, even stranger.
Thankfully, Herzog proves himself a bloody good writer, with an almost Conradian edge. His is a tight, tense narrative, with sharp psychological insight and an abiding affinity for the jungle setting. Indeed, I have never felt so immersed in fog and choking humidity. Herzog doesn’t shy away from the problematic aspects of Onoda’s service, either - the guy was ultimately a murderer - but lets it play out free from authorial judgement or moral grandstanding. In many ways, the perfect meeting of author and subject, The Twilight World can be chalked up as another Werner Herzog classic.
The Twilight Word by Werner Herzog (tr. Michael Hofman)
Published by The Bodley Head/Vintage/Penguin Random House, 2022