It may just be my journalistic instincts, but all throughout Annapurna I was distracted by Herzog’s seemingly impossible style of narration. For a book of this genre he uses an unexpected amount of dialogue, and I can’t help but be skeptical of that. His constant quotations, often of seemingly routine and unremarkable conversations that end up providing small bits of exposition, feel like they can’t possibly be accurately quoted from real life. In my experience it is near-impossible to get an accurate quote without an audio recording, and it seems unlikely that he would have been recording all of the expedition’s banter for later use in this book. They did have video gear, but, given the types of conversations that he presents as direct quotes, it doesn’t even feel like he’s pulling the quotes from recorded video. Herzog’s original 1952 introduction also explains that the narrative is based mostly on the expedition’s log, Lachenal’s journal and his memory, sources that don’t seem likely to contain exact, word-for-word records of conversations. He also explains that he dictated the whole book while being treated in the hospital, making his quotes even less credible.
After being bothered by the barrage of inevitably inaccurate quotes, I started to wonder if it really mattered. While I carried doubts about the accuracy of the quotes, I never suspected the authenticity of the narrative as a whole—he isn’t a liar, just a writer with blatant disregard for the laws of journalism. After thinking it over, I’ve come to the conclusion that while it doesn’t fully spoil the narrative, my experience reading Annapurna was negatively affected by my nagging doubts about all the incredible (by its original definition) quotations he uses to color the story. I don’t think it’s unfair to hold authors accountable for both their content and presentation, and Herzog’s presentation just felt really problematic. I’m open to discussion on this though, comment away if you have thoughts on the subject.