Author: Ivo Andri
First published: Gospodjica, 1945 (English translation, 1965)
Locale: Sarajevo and Belgrade
Rajka Radakovi (RI-kah rah-DA-koh-vihch), a woman from Sarajevo. Rajka is the quintessential miser. Her miserliness derives from a sense of insecurity, which came about primarily from her father's failure in business. Her father dies from grief, but not before advising his daughter to save at every step and to distrust people, because trusting people allows concern for others to govern one's life, which, in turn, makes one dangerously vulnerable. Rajka's bitter childhood experience stays with her all of her life. After taking over her father's business, she makes sure never to allow others to take advantage of her. Moreover, she denies herself every pleasure and isolates herself from people, even relatives. Eventually, her thrift and avarice become an obsession and grow to monstrous proportions. The excessive egotism, selfishness, miserliness, and lack of normal human drives in the end ruin her, along with everyone with whom she associates. The author offers some plausible explanations for Rajka's behavior. In addition to insecurity, a desire to avenge and redeem her father contributes heavily to her behavior. The remembrance of the past shapes her view of the world as basically evil, selfish, insensitive, and even cruel. Such a cruel world crushes soft and emotional people, like her father, but it bows before hard and resolute people, like herself. The only security people like Rajka can find is in money, and money becomes a god to which she is willing to sacrifice everything.
Obren Radakovi, Rajka's father, a rich merchant from Sarajevo who goes bankrupt. In a very brief role (Rajka is only fourteen years old when he dies), Obren leaves his daughter a weighty and even dangerous legacy, contained in a few guidelines: Do not trust people, depend only on your own strength and resoluteness, save as much as possible, and never allow emotions to govern your life. Another lesson Rajka learns from her father's experience is that honest work alone is not enough for a successful life. Rajka's allegiance to her father borders almost on an Oedipus complex, all the more so because her mother is a very weak person.
Radojka Radakovi (rah-DOY-kah), Rajka's mother. The exact opposite of her husband, Radojka is a harmless, good-natured, and meek woman, weak in spirit and in body. As such, she is unable to offer Rajka any support, not even love, no matter how much she tries. She simply cannot comprehend her daughter and therefore stays out of her life, powerless to influence Rajka in any way.
Vladimir Hadi-Vasi (HAHD-zhee VAH-sihch), Rajka's favorite uncle, only four years her senior. Vladimir enjoys life, likes beautiful things, loves to give expensive gifts, and spends everything he can. Essentially a good-for-nothing, he stands for everything Rajka does not, and that is probably why she likes him better than any of her other relatives. She even has motherly feelings and is exceptionally sentimental toward him, especially after his early death of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-three.
Rafo Konforti, a merchant from Sarajevo. A helpful and honest business partner, he helps Rajka learn the trade business without taking advantage of her inexperience. He is swept away by the profound changes during World War I.