Krleža, Miroslav (Vol. 114)
Miroslav Krleza 1893–1981
Croatian dramatist, novelist, essayist, short story writer, poet, critic, and autobiographer.
The following entry presents criticism of Krleza's career through 1987. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volume 8.
Considered the most significant Croatian literary voice of the twentieth century, Krleza wrote more than five dozen books, but has been generally ignored by Western academics and readers. Only a small portion of his work has been published in English—two novels, a short story collection, and selected writings issued in periodicals. His commitment to radical humanism led the Yugoslav government to ban most of his work until 1940, but by the early 1950s Krleza had become a major proponent of the artistic integrity of indigenous Yugoslav cultures. A master stylist who is often compared to such Western literary luminaries as James Joyce and Marcel Proust, most of Krleza's writings concern the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian empire and its transformation into a modern socialist state, while giving expression to often ambiguous themes and politics. Ante Kadic has explained that Krleza's "materialist convictions—conveyed with strong emotional impetus, his Marxist and liberal philosophy, his socialism mingled with sincere defense of personal freedom, and his readiness to defend his point of view with his own life—made Krleza highly controversial."
Born in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, Krleza was sent to Hungary after graduating from high school to attend an officers' school in Pécs and then a military academy in Budapest. Although trained as an Austro-Hungarian officer, Krleza nonetheless sympathized with the Serbian nationalist cause and volunteered his services to the Serbian army in their war against the Turks in 1913. Suspicious Serbian officials, however, expelled Krleza, who consequently was arrested by Austrians, deprived of his rank, and sent to the front lines as a private when Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia in 1914. This was the same year that Krleza made his literary debut with the publication of the anti-religious drama Legenda (1914). Krleza's experience on the fronts in Galicia and Austria during World War I brought him into contact with Croatian peasants and workers, with whom he shared the horrors and hardships of war, which became a principal theme in many of his writings. Inspired by the 1917 October revolution in Russia, Krleza and other leftist writers founded several short-lived, underground literary journals, including Plamen (1919), Knjizevna republika (1923–27), Danas (1934), and Pecat (1939–40). Despite official restrictions on his works in the period between the World Wars, Krleza proceeded to write not only plays but also novels, poetry, short stories, and essays. He continued to write during World War II, but he refrained from publishing his writings until later. Publicly disgraced after 1945 because he did not actively support the Partisan cause during the war, Krleza was rehabilitated by Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito during the early 1950s and went on to win numerous Yugoslavian literary prizes and several international awards, including the Heder Prize. In 1950 he was named director of the Yugoslav Lexicographic Institute—a position he held for the rest of his life—and from 1955 to 1971 he served as editor-in-chief of Enciklopedija Jugoslavije. In 1967 Krleza actively joined the cause of Croatians to publish in their own dialect, but when Tito issued an edict in 1971 against Croatian political leaders and intellectuals forbidding them to do so, Krleza retreated into silence. He died in Zagreb in 1981.
Krleza's early plays, often likened to the romantic, symbolist style of Oscar Wilde, depict historical personages as legendary individuals struggling with self-doubt about their visionary goals and about validation of their ideas by the masses. Legenda portrays the relationship between Jesus and Lazarus's sister, Mary, who suffers unrequited love for Jesus despite the presence of his "shadow," or alter ego, which insists that Jesus betrayed his own self and his true feelings for his high ideals. Mikelangelo Buonarti (1925) presents the artist as the sensitive soul who rejects all earthly delights in favor of solitary pursuit of creative endeavors, while Kristofor Kolombo (1918) represents the explorer as a dreamer aware that his discovery of a new world will certainly succumb to the evils of the old. Themes of the horrors of war, the nullification of the past by a brighter future, and the peace obtained amid native landscapes inform Krleza's poetry collections, most notably Lirika (1919), Knjiga lirike (1932), and Pjeseme u tmini (1937). Written in the dialect of northern Croatia and influenced by Croatian folk poetry, Balade Petrice Kremepuha (1936), regarded as Krleza's formal and stylistic poetic masterpiece, traces the history of Croatian peasants from the 1570s to the 1930s, protesting the consistently intolerable conditions of peasant life under the nobility, the clergy, and the modern bureaucracy. Krleza's short stories and novels contrast the hardships of Croatian peasants with the decadence of the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. Intended to represent the rise and fall of capitalistic society, a series of eleven stories and three plays describe the history of the Glembay family, whose rise out of peasantry to middle class prosperity is accompanied by moral degeneration. The plays in the so-called "Glembay cycle'" feature the psychological method of dramatist Henrik Ibsen and include Gospoda Glembajevi (1928), Leda (1930), and U agoniji (1931). The novel Povratak Filipa Latinovicza (1932; The Return of Philip Latinovicz) tells the story of a once-renowned painter, who returns to his childhood home after a twenty-year absence and confronts unhappy memories. Similarly, the first-person narrative of Na rubu pameti (1938; On the Edge of Reason) recounts the story of a Zagreb lawyer's alienation from his society, which gradually resolves in his descent into madness. Krleza's other novels, Banket u Blitvi (1938–9) and Zastave (1967), focus on the relationship between the individual and his government, particularly in dictatorships reminiscent of those that came to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Krleza's numerous essays on subjects ranging from politics to literary criticism display his powers of persuasion and his vast, though sometimes inaccurate and biased, knowledge.
Critics have regarded Krleza as a highly controversial writer, whether on the basis of his literary style and themes or his politics and philosophy. According to Kadic, only a few Central and Southern European critics have emphasized that "Krleza is the real initiator of Yugoslav revisionism." Although most scholars of his native land have recognized Krleza as the most significant Croatian and Yugoslavian writer to emerge during the twentieth century, some have attempted to discredit or minimize his literary and cultural acheivements, particularly for his refusal to accept government interference in cultural and literary domains. Kadic has noted that "Krleza's skirmishes with the 'socialist' theoreticians were just as bitter and dangerous as were those with the bourgeois camp." In the English-speaking West, Krleza remains relatively unknown due to the paucity of his works published in translation. Some critics have maintained that this neglect stems in part from the narrow-mindedness of Western publishers and their public, while others have attributed his obscurity in the West to the ambiguous nature of Krleza's themes and politics. The link between his politics and writings has constituted the central debate among commentators, the majority of whom have remarked on the inherent duality of Krleza's vision, which simultaneously embraces socialist revolutionary ideals and the importance of moral and artistic integrity. Some have stressed the political activist perspective of Krleza's works, arguing that his Marxist leanings show the moral and political inefficacy of the middle class, but others have countered that the common thread throughout his literary corpus affirms an abiding belief in humanist ideals. Kadic has concluded that "Krleza was and shall remain a pivotal figure, and no one interested in twentieth-century Croatian and South Slavic literature can ignore him…. He fully deserves to be ranked among the luminaries of contemporary world literature."
Pan (poetry) 1917
Tri simfonije (poetry) 1917
Kraljevo (drama) 1918; published in Hrvatska rapsodija
Kristofor Kolombo (drama) 1918; published in Hrvatska rapsodija as Christoval Colon
Lirika (poetry) 1919
Hrvatski bog Mars (short stories) 1922
Izlet u Rusiju (travel essays) 1926
Gospoda Glembajevi (drama) 1928
Leda (drama) 1930
†U agoniji (drama) 1931; expanded edition, 1962
Glembajevi (drama) 1932
Knjiga lirike (poetry) 1932
Moj obracun s njima (essay) 1932
Povratak Filipa Latinovicza [The Return of Philip Latinovicz] (novel)...
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SOURCE: "Miroslav Krleza," in Books Abroad, Vol. 37, No. 4, Autumn, 1963, pp. 396-400.
[In the following essay, Kadic provides a thematic and generic overview of Krleza's writings.]
Miroslav Krleza should not be treated as a man of letters only: his significance lies in various fields. One can safely state that his role in the establishment of the Communist dictatorship in Yugoslavia was extremely significant. There is no one who did more than Krleza to discredit bourgeois society and to orient a great number of intellectuals toward socialism.
To understand and appreciate Krleza one must locate him in his milieu, in Zagreb, during and after the First...
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SOURCE: "Krleza's Tormented Visionaries," in The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. XLV, No. 4, January, 1967, pp. 46-64.
[In the essay below, Kadic establishes a biographical context for an examination of Krleza's early works, tracing his preoccupation with "tormented" protagonists.]
Since Miroslav Krleza (born in 1893) is the leading Yugoslav Communist writer and as such believes in the progress of mankind and the ultimate victory of the proletariat, Yugoslav critics have been understandably reluctant to analyse his early output, especially the plays written at a time when he was a nihilist and sceptic. A thorough examination of the early work of Krleza, in...
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SOURCE: A review of The Return of Philip Latinovicz, in Saturday Review, Vol. 52, No. 46, November 15, 1969, p. 48.
[In the following review, Mihailovich discusses the themes in The Return of Philip Latinovicz, lamenting Krleza's lack of recognition by readers in the West.]
Paris had its Balzac and Zola, Dublin its Joyce, and Croatia has its Miroslav Krleza. Many of his works deal with the tribulations of the Croats under the ungainly Austro-Hungarian Empire. He is one of the two leading Yugoslav writers today (the other is Ivo Andric), a distinction he won almost half a century ago with the short-story collection Croatian God Mars [Hrvatski bog...
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SOURCE: A review of The Return of Philip Latinovicz, in The New York Times Book Review, February 15, 1970, pp. 4, 26.
[In the following review, Pawel praises Krleza's "demythification" of evil and commitment to moral and artistic integrity in The Return of Philip Latinovicz.]
Miroslav Krleza (Kirlezha), the formidable Croat who has dominated Yugoslavia's literary landscape for nearly half a century, remains virtually unknown in the West. His is not the only such case and again reflects at least in part the parochialism of Western publishers and their public; but the ambiguities of Krleza's themes and politics have no doubt contributed to the neglect of a writer...
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SOURCE: "A Critical Literary Approach to Miroslav Krleza's The Return of Filip Latinovicz," in Journal of Croatian Studies, Vol. XIV-XV, 1973–74, pp. 134-44.
[In the essay below, Ferguson assesses the meaning of The Return of Filip Latinovicz, distinguishing between Krleza's viewpoint and Filip's to suggest the novel's tragic intent.]
The most noticeable feature of criticism of Miroslav Krleza's novel The Return of Filip Latinovicz is the divergence of opinion as to "what the novel is about." Potential difference of opinion appears all the more remarkable when it is considered how little surrounds other Croatian novels regarding "what they are...
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SOURCE: A review of The Cricket beneath the Waterfall and Other Stories, in The Antioch Review, Vol. 34, No. 1, Fall, 1975, pp. 234-35.
[In the following review of The Cricket beneath the Waterfall, the critic comments on Krleza's narrative style.]
The Croatian Miroslav Krleza is among the most neglected of the world's great writers. European critics have long paired him with Bosnian novelist Ivo Andríc, as deserving contenders for the Nobel Prize (Andríc won the Prize, in 1961).
Krleza's stories display the same panoramic density that enlivens Andríc's magisterial chronicles of sturdy Balkan subkingdoms emerging from centuries of...
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SOURCE: "Krleza's Culinary Flemishness," in Text and Context, edited by Peter Alverg Jensen, et al., Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1987, pp. 185-92.
[In the following essay, Flaker examines the role and various function of food in some of Krleza's works, particularly Balade Petrice Kerempuha and Zastave.]
In his comparison of Krleza's Balade Petrice Kerempuha (The Ballads of Petrica Kerempuh) to the poetry of Eduard Bagrickij, Russian poet from Odessa, Zdravko Malic calls one of the chapters of his study I Consume, Therefore I Am, and, consequently, dubs the "point of view from which the world starts to assume the shape of an object of...
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Fried, István. "Miroslav Krleza's Anti-Utopia." Acta Litteraria Academiae Scientiarum Hungariace 29, Nos. 1-2 (1987): 163-78.
Discusses the relationship between Krleza's distinctly Croatian-Hungarian anti-utopian vision in his works and the development of Western European anti-utopian literature.
Miletich, John S. "Toward a Stylistic Description of Expressionist Lyric: The German Phenomenon and Its Croatian Analogs." International Journal of Slavic Linguistics and Poetics XXV/XXVI (1982): 281-89.
Explores "stylistic tendencies" of German expressionism as used...
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Krleža, Miroslav (Vol. 8)
Krleža, Miroslav 1893–
Krleža is a Croatian dramatist, novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. The most important Yugoslav writer, surpassing Ivo Andrić in the eyes of most critics, Krleža, a Marxist, has been chiefly concerned with the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian empire in his writings. A master stylist, Krleža has been compared with the great writers of Western Europe: Proust and Joyce. It is to Krleža's credit that he has not permitted the doctrine of socialist realism to limit or inhibit his creativity.
The volume and scope of Krleža's writings is vast and impressive. He has written more than fifty volumes of prose and poetry. Among his plays, the best known are The Glembays, In Agony, and Leda, all published in 1929. These plays constitute an organic entity, along with the short stories of the Glembay prose cycle. Here we meet the Glembays and the Fabriczys, two patrician families who marry, give birth, and die on the soil of Austria, Hungary, and Croatia between the days of Empress Maria Theresa (1717–1780) and those of the Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Jasenovac concentration camps (1941–1945). (p. 10)
The geographical setting of almost all of Krleža's fiction is Pannonia, once a Roman province, today a territory encompassing western Hungary, eastern Austria, and northern Yugoslavia, bordered on the north and east by the Danube. The fact that Krleža refers to a modern region by its ancient name must be seen as both an attempt at universalization and as an ironical device: we are confronted with a part of the world that has been stagnating for many centuries. It is a real and at the same time mythical region, like Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, obeying the specific laws of the author's imagination. Nothing changes in Pannonia's utter desolation, where pigs eternally grunt, horses neigh, and somber women creep about in muddy hovels. (p. 12)
With Voltairian irony, Rabelaisian laughter, and Orwellian satire, Krleža ridicules the degraded Pannonian intellectual and moral climate. He bombards bourgeois respectability and every kind of oppression of the free expression of man's thoughts. He analyzes the origins of wealth among the Pannonian rich and somewhere on each genealogical tree he finds a murderer or a swindler. The first accumulation of capital reeks with the stench of blood. (p. 13)
A Funeral in Teresienburg is a long procession of impressive names and titles—Krleža's funeral oration over the dead body of a condemned system. What is being buried in A Funeral in Teresienburg is not only the body of a young first lieutenant but, more generally, everyone who walks behind the coffin: the dignitaries with heads devoid of a single intelligent thought, dentured and coifed waxlike figures in cloaks, helmets, straps, chains, bronze lions' heads, two-headed golden eagles—all the pomp and ceremony of a crumbling empire. (pp. 13-14)
Krleža portrays the peasants, the bourgeoisie, and the nobility who live in and around those small Pannonian towns with poplars along the roads, the blacksmith shops and taverns, the steeples in the distance, and the brickyards on the edge of town where, when the bus returns at a monotonous pace from the hotel on the main square, everybody already knows who arrived that afternoon: a new officer or a traveling tie salesman…. But there is a fourth group in his fiction; the Pannonian Don Quixotes—the seekers, the dreamers, the prodigal sons, the neurotic artists and vagabonds who refuse to succumb to the Pannonian mentality, fighting to the very last to escape it. These heroes are Krleža's fallen angels who seem to have retained the memory of a former paradise they seek to recapture. Through them Krleža castigates and brilliantly illuminates the Pannonian mode of existence while at the same time criticizing the heroes' lofty dreams and attitudes. Some of these dreams glorify a particular woman, others an escape to a foreign country, still others the return home after futile wanderings abroad…. All are defeated and end in suicide or abandon or are completely shattered and full of remorse for their initial folly. (pp. 14-15)
In Banquet in Blithuania the liberal politician Niels Nielsen confronts the dictator Barutanski. The battle may appear at times to be futile; the ideal may seem weak compared to the political reality of the day. But Nielsen will continue to fight because—and this aptly illustrates one of Krleža's fundamental beliefs—against stupidity, violence, and arbitrariness the printed word still remains the most prestigious and effective weapon.
There are many more rebels, protesters, fantasts, and dropouts in Krleža's fiction. Leone, for instance, in the play The Glembays, is the prototype of Krleža's oversensitive, critical intellectual who denies his patrician family and the social order of his time. Krleža is fascinated, too, by Juraj Križanić, a seventeenth-century Croat who one day, laughed at by all his neighbors, set out from his village for Moscow in a horse-driven carriage full of books and documents, intent on alerting Russia's rulers to the historical obligation of Russia toward their Slavic brethren—only to be scorned and thrown into Siberian captivity where he remained for seventeen years—time enough to ponder his sin of idealism and imagine what his life could have been instead. (p. 16)
Krleža is attracted by tortured men whose lives are manuals of self-destruction. The same holds true for Krleža's women. If there be some general truth in the saying that women of twenty are crude, like Africa; women of thirty full of hope, like Asia; women of forty generous, like America; and women of fifty wise, like Europe, then it can be advanced that Krleža shows a predilection for portraying women in their forties, former beauties full of autumnal charm, rich in experience, open, hurt by life, with nothing to hide.
Only with these women can his equally tortured heroes find a few moments of deep understanding and meaningful respite. In describing such relationships Krleža has written some of his most beautiful pages, as, for instance, when Philip and Xenia Raday console themselves by attributing their sufferings, the deep wounds and beatings they have taken from life, to some ancestral, primeval force, feeling as if someone else's life is streaming through their hands, revealing itself in chance touches. Xenia Raday in The Return of Philip Latinovicz, Yadwiga Yesenska and Wanda in On the Edge of Reason, are all women whose very names evoke something languorous, and strangely attractive. And Laura Warronigg, the silly "twenty-year-old goose" in The Love of Marcel Faber-Fabriczy for Miss Laura Warronigg, becomes interesting only twenty years later when, as the tired, disappointed, and anxious heroine Baroness Lenbach in the play In Agony, she slowly but inevitably slips into suicide, struggling in vain to retain her last lover, Dr. Križovec. Time is dealing out poetic justice; the old wounds have been cauterized; life goes on. The rich texture of Krleža's prose integrates the swelling of memory, the nostalgia for childhood dreams and for a time of life and an epoch that are no longer…. (pp. 17-18)
[Krleža illuminates his fictional edifice] in his remarkable book of reminiscences, A Childhood in Agram. As a child Krleža slept under a baroque ceiling, gazing at it intently before closing his eyes. Later, when he began to write and throughout his career, he was to translate into literature that rich ceiling with its fallen and not-yet-fallen angels, devils, saints, warriors, trumpets, flutes, cymbals, drums, bows, arrows, candles, banners, horses, eagles, prayer books, and wreaths. (pp. 19-20)
In a broad sense, Central Europe is Krleža's literary territory, and Pannonia is part of Central Europe. He has peopled it with extravagant characters, corrupt and refined. He has ferociously attacked the Central European, Austro-Hungarian Pannonian bourgeois culture, but cannot help also admitting that this culture was able to produce a material civilization that on the whole compared favorably with that of the French. To understand Krleža one must bear in mind his own ambivalence. Along with his violent negation there exists a strong affirmation. He is in love with what he denigrates, just as he cannot help tearing apart the ideals of his dreamers for which, in the same breath, he voices profound nostalgia and admiration. When asked whether his Glembays and Fabriczys ever existed, he retorted: "Of course not. Had they existed, Zagreb would today be another Florence." They grew out of the baroque ceiling of his childhood and he made them live.
In A Childhood in Agram, Krleža recalls how, forty years later, the odor of old church books would bring back long-passed sensations of his earlist youth…. Krleža recalls the stillness of a room, the deep perspective formed in the shadow of a burning candle, the distant echo of thunder, the muffled roar of guns, the outpost with the young soldier who must kill for the first time, the penumbra of a church where one hears the twittering of swallows outside. All of these scents, noises, colors, perspectives Krleža weaves into the rich texture of his fiction.
One thing Krleža sensed from the very outset, deeply and intuitively—the existence of two different realities: One, a brute reality, used, abused, fragmentary, and diminished by the rational ideas of the man to whom the tree he observes hides the forest; the other, a pure, fantastic, virginally untouched reality that is fresh, childlike, and immediate, more real than the reality divided by reason. Consequently there are two kinds of people: First, men who have completely lost the link with their childhood, members of a molded and deformed humanity, actors reconciled to their parts, men turned gray and inert, fodder for statistics and consumer reports; the other, the poets, all those referred to by average talentless man as dreamers and schizoids, individuals who want to live life with the intensity of their childhood, for whom reality remains the prickly warm ball of a porcupine slowly moving in the dust under moonlight. The poet, the artist, the creator, the seeker is the man who remains, in the innermost core of himself, a child. And from the outset of his career Krleža has sided with that child against all the forces intent on annihilating him. (pp. 19-20)
Krleža has lived through a succession of isms—fascism, communism, and socialism, among others, and knows both sides of the coin only too well. He is equally suspicious of the right and the left. He expresses as does no one else in today's letters the wisdom of a third world that has demystified many consecrated historical, political, and artistic cults (p. 20).
Krleža's denials of certain ways of living rest on a deep personal faith from which they derive their strength and conviction. "To refuse the world is a way of accepting it," says Krleža in a statement that permits us better to understand the negative universe he creates in order to transform it through the very power of negation into its opposite.
There is something insufferable about a hot Sunday afternoon in August in one of the many Pannonian small towns with "gray, dusty, unwashed windowpanes, bare curtain rods, mothballed rugs, paper lanterns in the windows of stationery stores." It is on such a Sunday afternoon that the narrator in The Cricket Beneath the Waterfall runs into his old acquaintance Dr. Siroček and in a tavern tells him about the unusual things that have been happening to him recently—of how, for instance, he has been hearing voices of people who are no longer. Dr. Siroček listens with interest and sympathy. He invites the narrator into the latrine where once, beneath the waterfall, he heard the voice of a cricket. Ever since, Dr. Siroček carries bread crumbs in his pocket in case the cricket is heard again. The mere possibility of hearing its voice from out of the heart of the Pannonian wasteland transforms the loneliness of two people into a shared experience of human understanding.
Since the early part of the century when he began writing, wherever he has gone—in classrooms and in military barracks, in hospitals and prisons, behind coffins and on devil's islands, on trains and in hiding—Krleža has been following that voice into the darkest recesses of the night and of the heart of man. (p. 23)
Branko Lenski, in his introduction to The Cricket beneath the Waterfall and Other Stories by Miroslav Krleža, edited by Branko Lenski (copyright © 1972 by Vanguard Press; reprinted by permission of the publisher, Vanguard Press, Inc.), Vanguard, 1972.
Aside from the novel The Return of Philip Latinovicz … and a few stories here and there, the prolific work of the leading contemporary Croatian writer Miroslav Krleža, a repeated nominee for the Nobel Prize, is still largely unknown to the English-speaking reader. As the first collection of his short stories in English, The Cricket beneath the Waterfall and Other Stories goes a long way toward rectifying this omission. (p. 185)
[The six stories comprising this book] are among the best of Krleža's stories. Written over a span of several decades and varying in length from a few pages to a short novel, they display the rich repertoire of a seasoned writer: a keen interest in what is important to the contemporary reader, a skill in creating unforgettable characters and above all an ability to understand and recreate the specific atmosphere of his milieu—Croatia of the last two centuries. A Marxist practically all his life, Krleža has always felt that literature should have a social function. That he has not fallen prey to the deadening dicta of a didactic and propagandistic literature inherent in such a method as socialist realism—against which he has always fought vigorously—can be attributed largely to his immense artistic talent. For Krleža is first an artist and then a social revolutionary. In a very informative introduction to the book the editor Branko Lenski says that Krleža "expresses as does no one else in today's letters the wisdom of a third world that has demystified many consecrated historical, political and artistic cults" [see excerpt above]. Thus by keeping a proper balance between his art and his views he has succeeded in remaining an always fresh and pure writer.
The stories depict Krleža's favorite environment—a corner of Central Europe comprising parts of Croatia, Austria and Hungary, which he mythically calls Pannonia. Skillfully translated by various hands, they abundantly show Krleža as a very contemporary writer even though some of them were written almost half a century ago. (pp. 185-86)
Vasa D. Mihailovich, in Books Abroad (copyright 1974 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 48, No. 1, Winter, 1974.
A few casually uttered home truths change the course of a man's life in ["On the Edge of Reason," a] mordant parable about social convention, injustice, and hypocrisy. Mr. Krleža is a Croatian writer who examines human folly under a microscope, and all varieties seem to repel him equally. The main character is a respectable middle-aged lawyer who scandalizes a dinner party and eventually gets thrown in jail for insulting his host, a pious profiteer who has been boasting to his guests about how he once shot four peasants who were attempting to steal his wine. In rapid succession, everyone the lawyer knows turns against him, and he loses his wife, his friends, his job, and, eventually, his sanity. The story is narrated by the gradually less sane-sounding lawyer, and, though his plight is horrendous, it is hard to feel much about him, perhaps because the author garlands his martyrdom too lavishly. (p. 140)
The New Yorker (© 1977 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), April 11, 1977.