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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

“The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: The Illustrated Novel”, by Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown

202 pages, Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, ISBN-13: 978-1557830395

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: The Illustrated Novel by Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown is the printed adaptation of their 1988 movie of the same name, which was in turn based upon Baron Munchhausen’s Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia or, sometimes, as The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchhausen, a collection of tales by Rudolf Erich Raspe, a German librarian, writer and scientist, first published under his name in 1785. Did you know that there was once such a man? He was Hieronymus Carl Friedrich Freiherr von Münchhausen, a minor nobleman born in Bodenwerder of the Electorate of Brunswick-Luneburg who fought for the Russian Empire in the Russo-Turkish War and who subsequently became a minor celebrity for telling outrageous tall tales based on his military career. It isn’t really clear how much of Raspe’s material derived from the Baron himself (the two were known to one another and met on a few occasions), but what is known is that the majority of the stories are, in fact, based on folktales that had been in circulation for many centuries before Münchhausen’s birth. Munchausen has always been, for me, one of Terry Gilliam’s best movies. Usually known for his dark fantasy for adults, here Gilliam made a light-hearted fantasy for children, which was truly endearing. One of the many things I liked about the film is that it was visually beautiful, which is obviously missing from the book. Instead there are a series of illustrations that are…not very good at all. But still, the book is written with humor and intelligence which makes it a good read for children (who will like the adventure) and adults (who will respect the wit) and rates as a warmhearted tribute to the imagination, whether or not you’ve seen the film – and if you HAVEN’T seen The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, shame on you.

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