Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
Pages: 160
Publication Date: December 13, 2016

The Return of Munchausen

by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull

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An NYRB Classics Original

Baron Munchausen’s hold on the European imagination dates back to the late eighteenth century when he first pulled himself (and his horse) out of a swamp by his own upturned pigtail. Inspired by the extravagant yarns of a straight-faced former cavalry officer, Hieronymus von Münchhausen, the best-selling legend quickly eclipsed the real-life baron who helped the Russians fight the Turks. Galloping across continents and centuries, the mythical Munchausen’s Travels went through hundreds of editions of increasing length and luxuriance.

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, the Russian modernist master of the unsettling and the uncanny, also took certain liberties with the mythical baron. In this phantasmagoric roman à clef set in 1920s Berlin, London, and Moscow, Munchausen dauntlessly upholds his old motto “Truth in lies,” while remaining a fierce champion of his own imagination. At the same time, the two-hundred-year-old baron and self-taught philosopher has agreed to return to Russia, Lenin’s Russia, undercover. This reluctant secret agent has come out of retirement to engage with the real world.


Playful and erudite, sprinkled with philosophy and politics, funny in places and melancholy in others, this novella, like most of Krzhizhanovsky's work, remained unpublished during his lifetime; how lucky that we can read it now.
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

For all Krzhizhanovsky’s avant-garde bona fides, few authors speak more honestly about the power great literature can exert on a reader and on its creator.
—Scott Esposito, The National