The Great Fortune, 1960

(Great Characters in Literature)

Guy Pringle

Guy Pringle, who is at first a lecturer and then is in charge of the English Department at the University of Bucharest. He is a large, bearlike, physically and metaphorically nearsighted twenty-three-year-old. He is a committed English Marxist. He seems to ignore the realities around him and his marriage, preferring to give vent to his compulsive gregariousness and his camaraderie. He naïvely sees the best in everyone and imagines that generosity always will be repaid.

Harriet Pringle

Harriet Pringle, Guy’s twenty-two-year-old wife. They were married only a few weeks before both traveled to Bucharest from England. Harriet was an unwanted child of divorced parents and was reared by an aunt who considered her to be a nuisance. She looks to Guy for security but does not find it, partly because Romania is about to fall to German-Romanian Fascists but especially because her husband seems more interested in his Marxist idealism and how it will save the soon-to-be war-engulfed world, his teaching and theatrical projects, and the eccentrics he brings home than on striving to adjust to his more down-to-earth wife while she tries to protect him from his opportunistic, self-serving coterie.

Prince Yakimov

Prince Yakimov, called Yaki, a White Russian who frequently is unemployed. A former society playboy, he is now impoverished. An opportunist and weakling, he gracefully sponges on those he knows but will betray any friend or cause for the luxuries he still craves.

Sophie Oresanu

Sophie Oresanu, a pretty, opportunistic Romanian law student, partly Jewish, who clearly is intent on pursuing Guy and resents Harriet’s presence in Bucharest. Sophie’s major interest in life appears to be finding a husband, preferably one who can provide her with a British passport.

Clarence Lawson

Clarence Lawson, a self-loathing young Englishman in charge of Polish refugees in Bucharest. He is attracted to strong women like Harriet, who rejects his advances. He eventually marries Sophie Oresanu, who, on acquiring her British passport, leaves him for a series of more affluent men.

The Balkan Trilogy The Spoilt City, 1962

(Great Characters in Literature)


Guy and

Harriet Pringle

Harriet Pringle, whose marriage deteriorates further. She feels increasingly lonely. Guy is still entranced by his work and is oblivious to or unconcerned about the entrenchment of German-Romanian Iron Guard control. the Pringles let Prince Yakimov have their spare room in exchange for Yaki acting in Guy’s Shakespearean production. Yaki is disappointed with the board offered by the Pringles, especially the drinks, and becomes disloyal to Guy. Because of this, Guy’s name appears on a Gestapo hit list. One day, the Pringles’ apartment is raided in their absence, and they return to find that a Jewish student whom they had harbored is gone. Their days in the spoilt city, which has lost both its fortune and its soul, clearly are numbered.

The Balkan Trilogy Friends and Heroes, 1965

(Great Characters in Literature)

Guy Pringle

Guy Pringle, who escapes to Athens after Harriet does. Guy has difficulty landing a job in Athens. He finds the intrigues and other jealous maneuvers for advancement and power repugnant but is inclined to submit to them rather than to fight. Eventually, he finds a job arranging a show for the British military in Greece. Even as the German advance acquires momentum in the spring of 1941, Guy continues to retreat from reality, exhibiting what a hopeless romantic and irrepressible optimist he is and using Marxist philosophy to preserve his moral strength regardless of its applicability to actual events.

Harriet Pringle

Harriet Pringle, who feels increasingly alienated from Guy. She is exasperated by him but still finds his innocence endearing. She nearly has an affair with Second Lieutenant Charles Warden, an upper-class British army officer on a mysterious assignment in Greece. Even as the Germans are about to swamp the last Allied foothold in Europe, Harriet’s greatest concern seems to be to scrounge around for food for a stray cat. She has become even more painfully aware of the greed, duplicity, and selfishness of people who are little ennobled by their war experiences.

Prince Yakimov

Prince Yakimov, who eventually is fired from his job as a delivery man for a British newssheet and dies when the Athens police accidentally shoot him for lighting a cigarette during a blackout.

Alan Frewen

Alan Frewen, a middle-aged British information officer. He is a withdrawn loner who becomes close to Harriet Pringle at one point before returning to his true loves: His dog and Greece, where he plans to hide out after the Germans take over.

The Balkan Trilogy Bibliography

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Burgess, Anthony. The Novel Now: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction, 1967.

Dick, Kay. Friends and Friendship: Conversations and Reflections, 1974.

Morris, Robert K. Continuance and Change: The Contemporary British Novel Sequence, 1972.

Pendry, E. D. The New Feminism of English Fiction: A Study in Contemporary Women Writers, 1956.

Peterson, Virgilia. Review in The New York Times Book Review. LV (August 28, 1966), p. 4.