The latest entry in the NYRB Classics Book Club is Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s novel The Return of Münchausen, translated into English for the first time by Joanne Turnbull. Though Krzhizhanovsky wrote for some twenty years, Soviet censorship and World War II conspired against him, and none of his fiction was published in his lifetime (he died in 1950). “A fantastical plot is my method,” Krzhizhanovsky once wrote. “First you borrow from reality, you ask reality for permission to use your imagination, to deviate from actual fact; later you repay your debt to your creditor with nature, with a profoundly realistic investigation of the facts and an exact logic of conclusions.” In Münchausen, he borrows from the life—both real and legendary—of Baron Münchausen to spin his own absurd tale involving the baron’s post–World War I perambulations in Berlin, London, and Moscow on a diplomatic mission. Bizarre and fantastic, Münchausen (or is it Krzhizhanovky?) defends imagination above all else.
The Daily is featuring a trio of adaptations of short excerpts from the novel. In our last installment, Laura Park finds the baron recalling a strange encounter in “the Land of the Soviets.”