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This review is taken from PN Review 165, Volume 32 Number 1, September - October 2005.

IMPROBABILITIES EDWIN MORGAN, Tales From Baron Munchausen (Mariscat Press) £6.00

The tales attributed to Baron Munchausen have already appeared in innumerable versions: they have been filmed (twice) and even turned into a role-playing CD Rom. Now Edwin Morgan offers us his poetic re-tellings of a dozen of the tales, and these seem to get closest to the heart of what has allowed them to captivate with undiminished appeal for over two hundred years.

Edwin Morgan's introductory 'Letter to Baron Munchausen' acts as a bridge between the reader and the world of improbabilities into which we are enticed: 'You, my dear Baron, seem to have had that straightforward, confident, non-ironic art in your bones from the outset.' By forestalling our efforts to read irony in these accounts of events whose veracity we would otherwise consider dubious, Morgan forces (or rather encourages) us to listen with a pre-cognisant naïvety whose reward is increased pleasure.

This diverting of the critical eye is a feature of the tales themselves. The narrator is always in firm control of the story, coaxing the reader along with a mixture of charm and authority. On more than one occasion the ebullient Munchausen interrupts his narration of some impressive escapade to tell us that 'That's not the story though', before leading us to the heart of what he considers the story to be. The message is that the power of framing a story resides with the storyteller - and we are just the passive recipients of his tale.

Morgan ...


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