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Miroslav Krleza is considered one of the most important Central European authors of the twentieth century. In his career he wrote over fifty books as a poet, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, essayist, journalist, and travel writer. He also suffered condemnation-as a leftist and a practitioner of modernism-and saw his books burned in the late 1930s. The first two books of the trilogy The Banquet in Blitva were written in the thirties to comment on political, psychological, artistic, and ethical issues. Such commentary had already earned him the enmity of Yugoslavia's increasingly fascistic government. He would not publish the third book until 1962. Colonel Kristian Barutanski, lord of the mythical Baltic nation of Blitva, has freed his country from foreign oppression and now governs with an iron fist. He is opposed by Niels Nielsen, a melancholy intellectual who hurls invective at the dictator and at the hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy of society. Barutanski himself despises the sycophants beneath him and recognizes in Nielsen a genuine foe; yet Nielsen, haunted by his own lapses of conscience, struggles to escape the role of opposition leader that is thrust upon him. In the end he flees Barutanski's regime by running to a neighboring nation-only to find his new country as corrupt and as oppressive as the one he called home.
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