One of the universals in fairy tales and folklore is the magic power that can emanate from only one place, such as the stronghold implied by the title housing government officers and their families in a vaguely Transylvanian-Upper Slobovian country. It would be too simpleminded to decide that the novel is an allegory on Communism; anyone employed by a large institution (academic, military, governmental or commercial corporation) can have a lot of fun identifying the mentality and mores of the politicking leadership they know best and the little cracks through which the power can seep away--just as Major Kohler does at the palace. The catacomb tunnels are showing every sign of giving way and the whole huge structure is threatened, but the Major can't get the bureaucrats to notice it. His memos are disregarded, secretaries and assistant flunkies block his appointments with department heads, Byzantine intrigues snake along at an ever faster pace while every day the Major's measurements show that destruction and collapse are more and more imminent. The weakening supports of the palace are reflected in the leadership's internal struggles for power, in the staff's deepening suspicions of each other, and in the thoroughly public love affair the President's wife believes she and her lover are conducting secretly. This is short, funny, sad but (very true) satiric fantasy for adults.