Tag Archives: Jasper Winn

Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin

Because of the close friendship between Paddy and Bruce Chatwin, this blog has often highlighted material about the controversial, but acclaimed travel writer who died of HIV in 1989. I have just come across a programme on BBC iPlayer which I hope that many of you can access (is iPlayer still restricted by geography?), as it is a short film by the great German film-maker, Werner Herzog, paying homage to Chatwin.

Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin was first shown last Saturday on BBC 2 and is now on iPlayer for the next 27 days. I hope that you find time to watch the film (85 mins long) which you can find here. iPlayer does require registration. The blurb is as follows:

When legendary writer and adventurer Bruce Chatwin was dying of Aids, his friend and collaborator Werner Herzog made a final visit to say farewell. As a parting gift, Chatwin gave Herzog the rucksack that had accompanied him around the world.

Thirty years later, carrying the rucksack, Herzog sets out on his own journey, inspired by Chatwin’s passion for the nomadic life. Along the way, Herzog uncovers stories of lost tribes, wanderers and dreamers.

He travels to South America, where Chatwin wrote In Patagonia, the book that turned him into a literary sensation, with its enigmatic tales of dinosaurs, myths and journeys to the ends of the world. In Australia, where he and Chatwin first met, Herzog explores the sacred power of the Aboriginal traditions that inspired Chatwin’s most famous book, The Songlines. And in the UK, in the beautiful landscape of the Welsh borders, he discovers the one place Chatwin called home.

Told in Herzog’s inimitable style – full of memorable characters and encounters – this is a portrait of one of the 20th century’s most charismatic writers, which also offers a revealing insight into the imagination and obsessions of one of the 20th century’s most visionary directors.

If you would like to find other Bruce Chatwin articles on the blog, take a look here.

You might like to revisit our friend Jasper Winn’s walk when he retraced Herzog’s amazing winter 500 mile walk from Munich to Paris in 1974 to save his friend’s life. Listen via the link here.


Language Itself Resists

fitzAt the weekend I was watching with my partner the wonderful movie, The Mission, starring Jeremy Irons and Robert de Niro. The hot, humid, fly ridden jungle scenes reminded me of something by Werner Herzog that I had saved as a possible draft and it spurred me to share it with you.  It is clear that his experiences filming Fitzcarraldo were not particularly pleasant. This comes on the anniversary of our good friend Jasper Winn’s walk in the footsteps of Herzog’s 1974 walk from Munich to Paris in the depth of winter to save the life of a friend. 

by Werner Herzog

From the Paris Review

For reasons that escape me, I simply could not make myself go back and read the journals I kept during the filming of Fitzcarraldo. Then, twenty-four years later, my resistance suddenly crumbled, though I had trouble deciphering my own handwriting, which I had miniaturized at the time to microscopic size. These texts are not reports on the actual filming—of which little is said. Nor are they journals, except in a very general sense. They might be described instead as inner landscapes, born of the delirium of the jungle. But even that may not be entirely accurate—I am not sure.

A vision had seized hold of me, like the demented fury of a hound that has sunk its teeth into the leg of a deer carcass and is shaking and tugging at the downed game so frantically that the hunter gives up trying to calm him. it was the vision of a large steamship scaling a hill under its own steam, working its way up a steep slope in the jungle, while above this natural landscape, which shatters the weak and the strong with equal ferocity, soars the voice of Caruso, silencing all the pain and all the voices of the primeval forest and drowning out all birdsong. To be more precise: bird cries, for in this setting, left unfinished and abandoned by God in wrath, the birds do not sing; they shriek in pain, and confused trees tangle with one another like battling titans, from horizon to horizon, in a steaming creation still being formed. Fog-panting and exhausted they stand in this unreal world, in unreal misery—and I, like a stanza in a poem written in an unknown foreign tongue, am shaken to the core.

Santa Maria De Nieva, 14 October 1979

Seen from the air, the jungle below looked like kinky hair, seemingly peaceful, but that is deceptive, because in its inner being nature is never peaceful. even when it is denatured, when it is tamed, it strikes back at its tamers and reduces them to pets, rosy pigs, which then melt like fat in a skillet. This brings to mind the image, the great metaphor, of the pig in Palermo, which I heard had fallen into a sewer shaft: it lived down there for two years and continued to grow, surviving on the garbage that people threw down the shaft, and when they hauled the pig out, after it had completely blocked the drain, it was almost white, enormously fat, and had taken on the form of the shaft. it had turned into a kind of monumental, whitish grub, rectangular, cubic, and wobbly, an immense hunk of fat that could move only its mouth to eat, while its legs had shrunk and retracted into the body fat.

Iquitos, 8 December 1980

This morning, when I checked on the telex machine, Gloria was trying to make contact with the Narinho, the rusted-out ship that we had gotten to float here from Colombia, made buoyant with six hundred empty oil drums, but the onboard receiver must have been turned off. A young woman had shown up; she had no way to reach her husband, an electrician, who was on the ship. In the morning her child had been throwing up for two hours, then went into convulsions, and was suddenly dead. I did not know what I should say to the woman. She turned her face to the wall and cried; she had been keeping it in until then. I took her hand and held it, and when her silent sobbing had relaxed somewhat, I took her on the motorcycle and rode to the boat landing. The boatman did not want to set out because he was waiting for the cooks, but I hustled him off with the woman to the place where the Narinho was anchored. The woman was still very young, and it had been her first child, a son, only half a year old.

A still day, sultry. inactivity piled on inactivity, clouds staring down from the sky, pregnant with rain; fever reigns; insects taking on massive proportions. The jungle is obscene. everything about it is sinful, for which reason the sin does not stand out as sin. The voices in the jungle are silent; nothing is stirring, and a languid, immobile anger hovers over everything. The laundry on the line refuses to dry. As part of a conspiracy, flies suddenly descend on the table, their stomachs taut and iridescent. Our little monkey was wailing in his cage, and when I approached, he looked and wailed right through me to some distant spot outside where his little heart hoped to find an echo. I let him out, but he went back into his cage, and now he is continuing to wail there.

Iquitos, 18 December 1980

I have a snake on my roof again. A little while ago I heard something rustling up there, and then something dark fell into the banana fronds with a thwack. I took a look, and it was a poisonous brownish snake that had caught a bird, which was still peeping. I tried hitting the snake with a stick, but it disappeared like lightning into the grass. Only now and then did a blade quiver, and from the piteous cries of the bird I could tell where the snake was. I did not follow it into the grass, because I discovered that another snake was on the thatched roof, and directly above me a third snake was trying to get from a banana frond onto the platform of my hut. I tried to strike it with the machete, but the snake was too fast for me.

The power is still out. Evening descended on the countryside. What would happen if the rain forest wilted like a bouquet of flowers? Around me insects are dying, for which they lie on their backs. A woman in the neighborhood is suckling a newborn puppy after her baby died from parasites; I have seen this done before with piglets. Outside a bright moon is floating now above the treetops. The frogs, thousands of them, suddenly pause, as if they were following an invisible conductor, and start up again all at the same time. Their conversations come and go in curious waves. Waxy moonlight, as bright as neon, is shimmering on the banana fronds. I was called to the telephone in the house, and fell off the ladder that leads to my platform. It was one of very few phone calls that ever get through to us, and a stranger on the line was trying to make it clear to me that I was a madman, a menace to society. .. (more follows if you purchase the Paris Review issue here)

Read about Jasper Winn’s walk in Herzog’s footsteps here.

Jasper Winn in conversation with Dervla Murphy at Engage Arts Festival

Jasper Winn

Jasper Winn

Our good friend Jasper Winn is reprising his double act with Dervla Murphy this weekend at the Engage Arts Festival in Bandon, County Cork. Apologies for the short notice but perhaps some of our Ireland based followers will be able to attend. They appear at Bandon Grammar School on Sunday 27 September at 4.30 pm.

Jasper tells me he is currently working on a book about his time living with Berbers, and in October will be ‘setting off with a writer friend as his muleteer on a three week walk across England. I reckon it’s going to be fun.’ I have no doubt and will keep people updated.

Details of the Bandon Festival can be found here.


Dervla Murphy in conversation with Jasper Winn, 8 July

dervla-murphy460_1670571cJasper Winn is a good friend of the blog and it seems he is to appear at Waterstones, Cork in conversation with Dervla Murphy on Wednesday 8th July at 7pm. For details phone 021 4276522.

Dervla Murphy will also be appearing at the Junction Festival in Clonmel on Monday 6th July at 7pm. For more information go to: The Junction Festival

And at the ‘Literary Brunch’ West Cork Literary Festival on Saturday 18th July with Anthony Sattin. For more information go to: West Cork Literary Festival

In November you can catch Dervla in London at the Slightly Foxed Readers Day, at the Art Workers Guild, Bloomsbury on Saturday 7th November. For more information go to: Slightly Foxed.


Of Walking in Ice – a discussion with Jasper Winn

Copyright Jasper Winn http://www.theslowadventure.com/

Copyright Jasper Winn http://www.theslowadventure.com/

Many of you followed the slow adventure of Jasper Winn as he walked last November and December the 500 miles from Munich to Paris in the footsteps of German film-maker Werner Herzog. This podcast is the first of two that will cover the journey on the Outdoors Station. It is great to hear Jasper talking so eloquently and passionately about his walk and Herzog’s account, Of Walking In Ice: Munich – Paris: 23 November – 14 December, 1974, which was republished in the Autumn of 2014 to mark the fortieth anniversary of Herzog’s journey.

To listen to the podcast visit here.

Purchase Of Walking In Ice: Munich – Paris: 23 November – 14 December, 1974

Catch up with the Slow Adventure

Don’t forget to drop in now and then to catch up with Jasper Winn on his slow adventure from Munich to Paris in the footsteps of Werner Herzog. I have been enjoying Jasper’s short posts which are always insightful. He has crossed the Rhine, the Moselle and the picturesque but economic backwater of the Vosges. Clearly enjoying being in France he now faces mostly flat country in his last weeks walking to Paris, but as today’s post says, this brings it’s own challenges. Here is a little taster:

Always hard to avoid looking just a bit wooden in selfies. I’ve just crossed the Moselle at Thaon, so am across and out of the mountains that rise high on both sides of the Rhine valley, and with neither the snow nor storms that Herzog battled. The land being flatter brings it’s own challenges. Long slogs, little shelter, busy agriculture and so less hidden woods or derelict barns to sleep in, and speeding traffic on narrow twisting roads. And rural France is a struggle for many locals too – unemployment; so gambling, drinking, suicide. Symptomatic is the small number of village bars and cafes still open. I found just three still trading in over a hundred kms of walking and passing through tens of small villages. Now, in Thaon, I’ve found a joy. Bar Le Cosy. Good coffee. Wifi – hence another post. An armchair and friendly hostess and clients. It’s rather smart and chic and I may look a tad out of place


The slow adventure – in the footsteps of German film-maker Werner Herzog

Jasper Winn

Jasper Winn

Adventurer, horseman, musician and walker, Jasper Winn will soon be striding in the footsteps of German film-maker Werner Herzog who walked a 500 mile route from Munich to Paris exactly forty years ago, starting in November 1974.

Herzog had heard that German film critic Lotte Eisner was ill and might die; she had championed his career from early on when his films challenged the notion of what films were for and how they were made; he decided that by making a pilgrimage on foot to her bedside he would stop her dying. He kept a private journal of his three week trudge. This was published some years later as the slim volume, Vom Gehen Im Eis/Of Walking In Ice. Jasper came across the book, in translation, when researching long walks and pilgrimages more than a decade ago, and it made an impression on him. He describes the writing as “stark, recounts only the images that he sees, and what he directly feels. It’s both beautiful and unsettling.” His trip was difficult – average 24 miles a day non-stop and he carried little to make him comfortable or weather proof. He left in cold and patchy snow and over the coming weeks it rained, snowed, froze and blew. At night he broke into holiday homes, barns or anywhere he could find shelter. There were occasional nights in inns.

Jasper Winn, the author of Paddle: A long way around Ireland, will be updating us on this recreation of the journey on his website, Slow Adventure. If you would like to keep up with him please subscribe to his posts here.

Good luck Jasper!

Alan Watts on Paddy’s schooldays

I am very grateful to Jasper Winn (author of Paddle: A long way around Ireland) for sending me this scan from Alan Watt’s autobiography In My Own Way in which he refers to his time at King’s with Paddy in the 1930’s.

Tom, hi,

You have possibly already seen this contemporary account of the young Paddy at school. Alan Watts – self-styled mystic, very credible explainer of eastern religion, and 60s guru to a swathe of Californians and beyond – was a fellow pupil. His – Watts’ – extensive writings tend to be accurate in detail and observation, though creative in colour and tone, and perhaps in any conclusions drawn. Still one of the few people who wrote about Paddy from first hand knowledge at such an early point in his life.

I hope that the high def photo of the relevant pages from Watts’ autobiography In My Own Way makes for legible reading.