“Our tasks are to remain invisible, to deceive the enemy, to be ready to do seemingly dishonorable things while keeping safe in our hearts the warrior’s honor.” ~ Werner Herzog, The Twilight World.
Although German filmmaker Werner Herzog has produced, written, and directed over sixty feature- and documentary films, The Twilight World is Werner Herzog’s debut as a novelist.
As the Imperial Army prepares to withdraw from Lubang Island, Philippines in December 1944, Japanese intelligence officer, Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, is ordered to hold the island until the army returns. At first, he is with three other soldiers, but one-by-one they succumb to the jungle. They ignore leaflets announcing the Japanese surrender, technological advances such as jet aircraft and tubeless radios and Onoda mistakes American planes and ships en route to Korea and Vietnam as proof that WW II rages on. In 1974, he is discovered alone in the jungle by an eccentric wanderer hunting for yeti (you can’t make that up) who tells the soldier the war has been over for nearly thirty years.
This could have been such a great book. The true story of Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda is tragic, yet remarkable. Imagine living in the wilderness not knowing World War 2 has been over for twenty-nine years! Onodo surrendered his sword in 1974 after believing he had been singularly defending Japanese territory against the United States. His is a fascinating story, but the book was tedious. It has a surreal quality like Herzog’s films, and not at all my style. Thankfully, the novella was only 144 pages, so the time investment was minimal. I supplemented the book with audio, but it seemed peculiar to have a book set in Japan read with the director’s own thick German accent. 3 stars.
Learn more about Hiroo Onoda HERE
** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book. The opinions expressed are my own.