“The Outer Fringes of Our Language”: Werner Herzog on J.A. Baker's <i>The Peregrine</i>

October 23, 2019

“The Outer Fringes of Our Language”: Werner Herzog on J.A. Baker's <i>The Peregrine</i>

“That's how a filmmaker should see things: in loneliness. He or she or it should see the world with an incredible amount of human pathos and enthusiasm and rapture.”  
—Werner Herzog

In 2016, Entitled Opinions host Robert Pogue Harrison invited renowned film director and author Werner Herzog to Stanford to discuss one of their shared favorite novels: The Peregrine, published by an obscure British writer named J.A. Baker in 1967.

As Robert Macfarlane's writes in the introduction, The Peregrine is “not a book about watching a bird, it is a book about becoming a bird.” What does that mean? The two discuss the wish to fly, the plight of the earthbound, and what “the truth” means. “I crave many things beyond reality,” says Herzog. “It's a very impoverished life if we only go for that.”

But the conversation didn't stop there: Herzog spoke about his devotion to books and his belief that reading is the best, and perhaps even only, way to take possession of the world. He discussed the Poetic Edda, The Conquest of New Spain, The Warren Commission Report, the Codex Florentino, and more.

The interview at Dinkelspiel Auditorium was part of Stanford's Another Look book club.

You cannot become completely anonymous in our time, in our century.”  —Werner Herzog


Werner Herzog is a leading figure in New German Cinema, and one of the most important film directors of the past half-century. Since his first film at age 19 in 1961, he has produced, written, and directed nearly 60 documentary and feature films, including Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo. He has also directed dozens of influential documentaries, including Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Into the Abyss, and last year, Meeting Gorbachev. Finally, he is the accomplished writer of books such as Of Walking in Ice and Conquest of the Useless: Reflections on the Making of Fitzcarraldo. A book of interviews was published as Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed.


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