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This is the first (and to date only) stand-alone work set in Dragaera. It is the only book that takes place exclusively in any of the Eastern Kingdoms in general, or in Fenario specifically. The book was published in 1986 by Ace Books, and is told in the third person, concentrating most often on the protagonist, Miklós.

Chronologically Brokedown Palace is set approximately 25 years prior to Jhereg, the first book in the Vlad Taltos Series.

The first draft of Brokedown Palace was written as a political allegory, but Steve decided to move away from this.

Traces of this influence still remain in the final text, however.

Brokedown Palace as a Marxist AllegoryEdit

Steven Karl Zoltan Brust has said of his book, Brokedown Palace : [1]

"The first draft of BROKEDOWN PALACE was a Marxist allegory, written to prove to myself that I ought not to write allegories. In the re-write, I backed away from the allegory. Elements of it are still there, but I had to let the story go its own way."

Which I can quite understand, and accords with my perceptions. That is, I perceive the allegorical structure providing the framework for the story in the same way that a skeleton provides the structure for the human body - but the allegory is not the whole story any more than a skeleton is an entire human body.

What follows is an extended analysis of Brokedown Palace by Steven K. Z. Brust, as a political allegory. There will of course be spoilers for the entire book, especially the ending.

Warning: I am not an expert in Marxism or Hegelian philosophy. Note also that I am not a professional literary critic, and I'm probably going to do something wrong. What the hell, anyway.

Viewing the story as an allegory, by necessity, means reducing the characters to caricatures, simplified sketches of themselves. Which is what I'm going to do here; this means ignoring the larger complexity of the tale. This isn't the only way to view the story, but I think it is worthwhile to examine those elements which support the allegory.

So let's start with the Palace itself: it represents Capital itself (Capital==Capitol - Hah!). It is capital that is failing. The infrastructure is tottering and decadent. Efforts by those within to repair it are doomed to failure; the rot is too far advanced; they can only stave off its inevitable collapse.

László represents the bourgeois class, the industrialists and landowners who control capital. He is also the obvious archetypical reactionary, who identifies with the Palace, with the system itself. He cannot admit that it is failing because he thinks of his power as deriving from the Palace (that is, from capital itself).

László controls the power of the State (== Állam, in Hungarian). He is served by Sándor (who represents the clergy, the religion which supports the current regime), and by Viktor (who represents the entire military (but who is also a rival to the bourgeoisie, seeking to place himself at the head of the system without otherwise changing it)), and is advised by Rezső, who represents the system of bureaucrats and civil service, or possibly the intelligentsia.

Andor represents the petit-bourgeois, the middle-class. Weak-willed, flighty, incompetent and unhappy, but driven by good intentions, he seeks desperately for something to put his faith in. His attempt at flower-growing might be seen as a metaphor for mercantile investment (Tulip Mania, anyone?), and when this fails, he turns to the Goddess, which is of course that opium of the masses, religion.

Vilmos represents the proletariat, largest and mightiest of the classes, and the one that is most often called upon to defend the realm against danger and to provides the labor which props and supports the regime when parts of it fail.

Miklós represents the nascent revolutionary - at first, he is merely a social critic, calling attention to the failure of the system, and persecuted because of this.

János VI and his wife Teréz, injured by the collapse of a wing of the palace, quietly living out their years in one of the towers, represent the remnants of the feudal aristocracy (Teréz being the old art that was nourished from it) [2]. Note that that same collapse represents the failure of the aristocratic capital that leads to the bourgeois taking control.

The Tree represents the nascent new order, fed by the River (which might represent Time itself), growing right inside the old system, with the ultimate destiny of replacing it. It will bring about the Revolution itself.

Brigitta represents the art [3] that must serve the bourgeoisie's pleasure ("the King's whore") in the old order, but who presents the new order as a thing of beauty.

The norska represent the impoverished lumpenproletariat, living at the bottom of the current social hierarchy, subsisting on the leavings of the classes above them. [4]

Mariska represents the benevolent philanthropic bourgeois - she is sympathetic towards the proletariat (Vilmos) and the lumpenproletariat (norska), and is also determined at first to institute repairs (reforms) to the old system.

To be somewhat more accurate with respect to terminology: Mariska represents Conservative, or Bourgeoise, Socialism. This includes "economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organisers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, [etc]" [5]

So. Let's now look at the events: Miklós, in the heat of anger at having his small portion in the regime taken from him (his room), states that the system (Palace) will collapse anyway. László sees all criticism as treason, and lashes out at him with the full power of the state (Állam), seeking to suppress his words. From Miklós' blood, the new order begins to grow. That is, the violent repression only guarantees that the revolutionary movement will grow.

Miklós is hurt, but not killed, and the River (of Time) heals his wounds and brings him to a place where he finds Wisdom (== Bölcsesség, in Hungarian).

Miklós then must determine his proper course of action, which is essentially to grow and become a genuine revolutionary. Before he reaches this stage, he chooses exile, guided by Wisdom, eventually to return (as Lenin was exiled and returned - perhaps because a revolutionary needs the perspective of seeing the system from the outside).

On his way home, he encounters a dragon, who hurts both him and Vilmos. I think the dragon represents War (that is, in addition to the "literal" conflict with the Northmen is the allegorical war that the proletariat (Vilmos) is sent to fight on behalf of the bourgeoisie - with the prayer (or whatever the spell represents) provided him by the clergy (Sándor), which fails to have any real affect on the war (dragon) itself).

Before he arrives, the petit-bourgeois (Andor) gets a splinter (a small failure of capital?), and goes to the clergy (Sándor) for aid. Andor gets the notion that his mercantile investments (flowers) have failed because he has not been sufficiently pious, and he resolves to pay more attention to religion (the Demon Goddess).

Once Miklós does return, he is betrayed by the petit-bourgeoisie (Andor), acting in the name of religion. The proletariat (Vilmos) is indecisive, unsure at this point whether to support the existing state or the critic.


Now the fact of the Revolution's existence comes to the attention of the reactionary forces. The clergy (Sándor) and the military (Viktor) cannot harm it. The proletariat (Vilmos) is unwilling to use his strength to uproot it - while it may be in his power to do so, he has too much sympathy for it. The bourgeoisie (László) is unwilling to unleash the power of the State (Állam) against it, fearing that he might destroy the current regime if he does. And the visionary artist (Brigitta) sees its inherent beauty, and goes to join the social critic (Miklós), to convince him of this beauty as well.

Miklós finally decides that he must destroy the God who upholds the current system (and as a digression, I note that it is an interesting effect of political psychology that nearly every state in existence claims that God supports them), using the heart and blood of his horse. It occurs to me that the Heart and Blood of Wisdom might be Reason, which is what is usually used against the repressive excesses of religion.

Finally, he must convince the other classes (Andor, Vilmos) to support him against the repressive reactionaries (László, Sándor, and Viktor), allowing the completion of the revolutionary process. Note that after it is all over, all of the reactionary forces are dead, and power passes not to the petit-bourgeoisie (Andor), but to the proletariat (Vilmos). The philanthropist (Mariska) flees, but it is suggested that she may return and join the proletariat in the new order.


Some of the above analogies may be a little strained, but I think I covered most of the important ones.

Notes for "Brokedown Palace as a Marxist Allegory"Edit


1:  ^  The quote is from a Posting to rec.arts.sf.written, Message-ID: falh.822330172@maroon.tc.umn.edu


2:  ^  Per SKZB in this Posting to rec.arts.sf.written, Message-ID: 3cc47be3.174324104@news.lvcm.com


3:  ^  The original draft of this analysis used the term "artist-visionary", since Brigitta seemed to be far too active a character to be a mere abstraction. But this is SKZB's own terminology, and as he says:

"remember that binding a character to a symbol was something I did in the first draft, and found it didn't work, so well before I got to the final draft (There were four full rewrites with that book) all the characters had been given permission to stop being symbols and just be themselves."
-- personal e-mail from the author, 28 Aug 2001


4:  ^  Incidentally, somewhat amusingly, the norska's names are just Hungarian terms for family members:

  • Atya == "father",
  • Anya == "mother",
  • Bátya == (some form of "brother" (báty)),
  • Húga == (some form of "sister" (húg)),
  • Csecsemő == baby.


5:  ^  Quoting directly from the Communist Manifesto.

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