More Excerpts from Werner Herzog’s Conquest of the Useless


Last month, we were delighted to read some excerpts from Conquest of the Useless, Werner Herzog‘s forthcoming account of the making of his epic Fitzcarraldo (we wrote about it here). The paragons of moral literature at Vice Magazine have henceforth published a few more excerpts, available here. Here’s a morsel to whet the appetite:

I hurried to the first-aid station and saw a native man and a woman, both of whom had been struck with enormous arrows. They had been fishing for the camp three hours upstream by speedboat, and had spent the night on a sandbank. During the night they had been ambushed and shot at close range by Amehuacas. The woman had been hit by three arrows and almost bled to death. The wounds were close together. One arrow had gone all the way through her body just above her kidney, one had bounced off her hip bone, and the most life-threatening one was still sticking in her abdomen, broken off on the inner side of her pelvis. I spent several hours helping out while she was operated on, shining a powerful flashlight into her abdominal cavity and with the other hand spraying insect repellent to try to drive away the clouds of mosquitoes the blood had attracted. The man still had an arrow made of razor-sharp bamboo and almost thirty centimeters long sticking through his throat. He had broken off the two-meter-long shaft himself, and was gripping it in his hand. In his state of shock he refused to let go of it. The arrow’s tip, which looked more like the point of a lance, had spliced open one of his shoulders along the collarbone and was sticking crossways through his neck, with the tip lodged in his shoulder on the other side. He seemed to be in less immediate danger and was operated on only after the woman. Here is what had happened: the man, his wife, and a younger man, all three of them Machiguengas from Shivankoreni, who provide us with yucca, had gone up the Camisea to hunt. They were sleeping on a sandbank, and during the night the woman woke up because the man next to her was gasping strangely. Thinking a jaguar had got him by the throat, she grabbed a still glowing branch from the fire and jumped up. At that moment she was struck by three arrows. The younger man woke up; he had a shotgun with him, and, grasping the situation, fired two shots blindly into the night, since everything was happening in pitch darkness and complete silence. None of the three saw any trace of the attacking Amehuacas; they disappeared, leaving only a few footprints in the sand.


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