“Time, time and the jungle. The jungle does not recognise time. They are like two alienated siblings who will have nothing to do with each other, who communicate, if at all, only in the form of contempt.”
It’s Herzog and jungles, so you know it’s going to be at the very least interesting. I had actually seen the 2021 movie on Onoda, “Onoda – 10,000 nuits dans la jungle” (unfortunately not directed by Herzog!). At three hours, it’s an immersive behemoth of a film, focusing on the story of Onoda, in an almost documentarian manner.
THE TWILIGHT WORLD is the opposite of this: it’s an extremely breezy read, not a word wasted, shining lights on specific aspects and knowledge Herzog has of the events. Of course, it’s typical Herzog– a person on the edge of society, an intriguing life story, and the tragedy of it all. It’s not a straightforward account of what happened, like the Harari movie, instead a somewhat dreamlike account, non-fiction yet fiction, prose yet poetry.
The story of Hiroo Onoda remains absolutely fascinating. I would like to call this a somewhat nuanced take on his character, though not entirely. Both the film and this book have clearly alluded to his messed-up mental state, but I’ve seen very few honest discussions of his actions.
To many, the story of Onoda’s persistance in his twilight world is a beautiful example of unfaltering commitment and dedication. But I don’t see it that way. To me, it’s a *warning* against such extreme devotion. Onoda had many, many opportunities to realize and accept the reality of the war being over. He killed many innocent civilians, terrorised countless people, and wasted over 30 years of his life… and for what?
He was ultimately regarded as a hero upon his return to Japan. Sure, he was a “bad-ass” in the way that he persisted all that time, managing to hide and survive despite the many military sweeps, police attacks and other attempts by the Japanese government to hunt him down. It’s a celebration of mental illness and murder, glorification of someone who was clearly mentally unwell.
Anyway- I reecommend this novella for all fans of Herzog. 3.5, rounded up to a 4.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.