A Bat in Flight: Sigizmund Krzhizhanovskij's Vozvrashchenie Mjunxgauzena

Karen Rosenflanz, Independent Scholar

In the fantastic novella Vozvrashchenie Mjunxgauzena (1927), Sigizmund Krzhizhanovskij adopted as his protagonist the legendary prevaricator Baron Münchhausen. When Münchhausen emerges from R. E. Raspe's narrative into interwar Europe, he is sent as a correspondent on a mission to Russia to report on conditions there. Instead, Münchhausen goes into seclusion at his manor in Badenwerder, where he creates his own, imagined version of the Soviet state. Münchhausen compares his own technique of devising stories to a scientific experiment in which a bat is released in a dark room crisscrossed by strings to which bells have been attached: the bat flies silently, avoiding all the strings. By analogy, Münchhausen's flights of fancy must also evade any collisions with reality.

The novella Vozvrashchenie Mjunxgauzena provides an opportunity to discuss several facets of Krzhizhanovskij's fantastic fiction. First, through the convergence and divergence of narrative levels (Genette, McHale) fantasy and reality are interwoven in the novella. Krzhizhanovskij's approach to fantasy is linked to H. Vaihinger's use of "fiction" as an analytical term in his Theorie des Als-Ob (1911). The role of the narrator or writer of fantasy is examined with respect to Krzhizhanovskij's development of a metaphysics of fiction that usurps the place of other philosophical constructs. Finally, Krzhizhanovskij, in writing "an octave above" reality, was able to create an astute satire on life in Russia during his time.