Colonel Kristian Barutanski, overlord 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 the hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy of society. Barutanski himself despises the sycophants beneath him and recognizes in Nielsen a genuine foe; but Nielsen, haunted by his own lapses of conscience, struggles to escape both the regime and the role of opposition leader that is thrust upon him.
Miroslav Krleza is considered one of the most important Central European authors of the twentieth century. In his career he was a poet, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, essayist, journalist, and travel writer. He also suffered condemnation as a leftist and a practitioner of modernism and his books were proscribed in the 1930s. The first two books of the trilogy The Banquet in Blitva were written in the thirties and their comments on political, psychological, artistic, and ethical issues earned him the enmity of Yugoslavia's increasingly fascist government. He did not write and publish the third book in the trilogy until 1962.