The Balkan Trilogy

Humphrey Sutton’s design for The Great Fortune, Penguin, 1974

British author Olivia Manning published the three novels in 1956-64 that comprise the Balkan trilogy. They cover the wartime experiences of an English couple in wartime Romania. She wrote from experience. During the War she was in Romania, escaping the Nazi onslaught with her husband, first to Greece, then Egypt and later Palestine.

Humphrey Sutton’s design for The Balkan Trilogy, Penguin, 1974

Penguin released the three novels in 1974 in a clever triptych. The designer Humphrey Sutton used a layered collage across the three covers incorporating a map of Romania, the Times newspaper and a photograph of a Stuka dive-bomber. The black & white source images have been hand-coloured and their angular, compacted shapes give the books a palpable sense of urgency and danger.

With her subsequent series, the Levant trilogy, they make up the Fortunes of War cycle, described as “the most underrated novels of the twentieth century.” In 1987 they were made into a noted television miniseries starring Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh.

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