on April 27, 2007
What else can be said about Saki? A man caught between the death of the old way and the birthpangs of modernity - in both politics and literature - has much to satire. Saki's humor is near-pathological, glorifying the absurd and savaging the serious. Any (and all) collections of his too-brief work are to be appreciated, cherished, and most importantly, shared. If one can read "The Unrest-Cure" and not laugh out loud I fear for the future of humanity!
on September 15, 2009
Saki was one of the funniest, wickedest, evilest senses of humor to ever pick up a pen! While the stories sometimes seem dated [they were written before World War I], which may make them a little strange to someone who is unfamiliar with the era, the stories are completely worth it! I highly recommend Shock Tactics, The Unrest Cure, Gabriel Ernest, and Sredni Vastar. Saki was sharper than a knife and had a great grasp not only of the absurd but the eerie. What a pity he died in the trenches!
on November 25, 2009
The stories of H.H.Munro - better known by his pen-name of Saki - have scarcely been out of print since they were first published a hundred years ago. Yet it often seems that their particular delights are reserved for the private pleasures of his coterie of admirers.
It has to be admitted that a taste for Saki is something of an addiction. And, like all addictions, once acquired it is hard to give up. In the years since his wastefully tragic early death in the trenches of World War I at the hands of a German sniper, fellow addicts have included Graham Greene, Noel Coward and Tom Sharpe. All of us take a slightly wicked satisfaction from his biting wit and the subversive way in which he undermines the staid Edwardian society he purports to merely observe.
But, to a much greater extent than his near-contemporaries, Wilde and Kipling, there is something dark and menacing at the heart of Saki's writing. Behind the refined tinkle of teacups on an Edwardian lawn can be heard the distant howling of a wolf. Hidden among the shrubbery in a carefully manicured garden lurk all kinds of Beasts and Superbeasts, ready to wreak Nature's revenge on an uncaring mankind with its arrogant belief in materialism, progress and the innate respectability of middle-class values. Where Kipling's Jungle Book menagerie tends to simple analogies of human types, Saki's animals can rise up with the full power of Pan himself.
This is not to ignore Saki's ability to turn an aphorism with all the facility and wit of the divine Oscar at his best. Nor does it forget his ability to prick the inflated egos of louche young men with too much time and money on their hands or deliciously dotty aunts and duchesses with their minds firmly fixed on Empire and their Imperial responsibilities.
It would be easy to argue that Munro foresaw the imminent collapse of the society into the cataclysm of the Great War. With his experience as a political journalist in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, he was probably more aware than most of the storm that was about to break over Europe.
But essentially he was an observer of his fellow man. And it is for the humour of his observations, for the dazzling twists and turns his tales take and for the fact that he makes us laugh inordinately that he is to be treasured and why we addicts are prepared to share our secret vice with those who have not yet acquired the habit.