Every Man for Himself and God Against All: A Memoir

Every Man for Himself and God Against All: A Memoir

Every Man for Himself and God Against All: A Memoir

Every Man for Himself and God Against All: A Memoir


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Legendary filmmaker and celebrated author Werner Herzog tells in his inimitable voice the story of his epic artistic career in a long-awaited memoir that is as inventive and daring as anything he has done before

Werner Herzog was born in September 1942 in Munich, Germany, at a turning point in the Second World War. Soon Germany would be defeated and a new world would have to be made out the rubble and horrors of the war. Fleeing the Allied bombing raids, Herzog’s mother took him and his older brother to a remote, rustic part of Bavaria where he would spend much of his childhood hungry, without running water, in deep poverty. It was there, as the new postwar order was emerging, that one of the most visionary filmmakers of the next seven decades was formed.

Until age 11, Herzog did not even know of the existence of cinema. His interest in films began at age 15, but since no one was willing to finance them, he worked the night shift as a welder in a steel factory. He started to travel on foot. He made his first phone call at age 17, and his first film in 1961 at age 19. The wildly productive working life that followed—spanning the seven continents and encompassing both documentary and fiction—was an adventure as grand and otherworldly as any depicted in his many classic films.

Every Man for Himself and God Against All is at once a personal record of one of the great and self-invented lives of our time, and a singular literary masterpiece that will enthrall fans old and new alike. In a hypnotic swirl of memory, Herzog untangles and relives his most important experiences and inspirations, telling his story for the first and only time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593490297
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/10/2023
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 79,404
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Werner Herzog was born in Munich on September 5, 1942. He made his first film in 1961 at the age of nineteen. Since then he has produced, written, and directed more than sixty feature and documentary films, including Aguirre, Nosferatu, Fitzcarraldo, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, My Best Fiend, Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World, and Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Herzog has published more than a dozen books of poetry and prose, most recently The Twilight World, and directed as many operas. He has appeared as an actor in Jack Reacher, The Mandalorian, and The Simpsons, and exhibited an art installation, Hearsay of the Soul, at the 2012 Whitney Biennale and the Getty Museum. He also founded his own Rogue Film School as a counterpoint to what is taught in most film schools around the world. He lives in Munich and Los Angeles.

Michael Hofmann is a German-born poet who writes in English. He has translated the works of Bertolt Brecht, Franz Kafka, Hans Fallada, and Joseph Roth, and teaches at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Read an Excerpt


Stars, the Sea

The lamentations ended about noon. Some of the women had screamed and torn their hair. When they were gone, I went to see for myself. It was a small stone building by the cemetery in the hamlet called Hora Sfakion on the south coast of Crete, just a few houses scattered over the steep cliffs. I was sixteen. The tiny chapel had an opening, no door. In the half-dark within, I saw two corpses so close to each other, they were touching. They were both men. Later I was told that they had killed each other in the night; in that remote, archaic part of the world, they still had the vendetta, or blood vengeance. All I remember now is the face of the man on the right. It was lavender blue with splotches of yellow. Emerging from the nostrils were two enormous pads of cotton wool soaked full of blood. He had been hit in the chest with a load of buckshot.

At nightfall, I went out to sea. I was working for a few nights on a fishing boat; it would have to have been on the few dark nights either side of the new moon. One boat towed six skiffs called lampades out to sea, each one of them with one man on board. There we were all dropped a couple of hundred yards apart and left to drift. The sea was as glossy smooth as silk, no waves. An immense silence. Each skiff had a big carbide lamp that was shining down into the deep. The lamp attracted the fish, especially cuttlefish. There was a strange method of fishing for them. At the end of a fishing line was a small shiny piece of wax paper about the size and shape of a cigarette. That attracted the cuttlefish, which grasped the booty in their tentacles. To help them hold on, the bait had a wire wreath fixed to it. You had to know just exactly how far down the lure was below the surface because the instant the cuttlefish felt themselves being pulled up into the air, they would straightaway relinquish their booty and drop back into the water. You had to accelerate the last arm's length of line so that you were able to swing the cuttlefish onto your skiff.

The first few hours were spent in silent waiting until eventually the artificial moon of the lamp began to take effect. Above me was the orb of the cosmos, stars that I felt I could reach up and grab; everything was rocking me in an infinite cradle. And below me, lit up brightly by the carbide lamp, was the depth of the ocean, as though the dome of the firmament formed a sphere with it. Instead of stars, there were lots of flashing silvery fish. Bedded in a cosmos without compare, above, below, all around, a speechless silence, I found myself in a stunned surprise. I was certain that there and then I knew all there was to know. My fate had been revealed to me. And I knew that after one such night, it would be impossible for me to ever get any older. I was completely convinced I would never see my eighteenth birthday because, lit up by such grace as I now was, there could never be anything like ordinary time for me again.

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