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Saki

"A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanations." (from "The Square Egg")

Saki was the pen name of Hector Hugh Munro, chosen from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam. He was a writer whose witty and outrageous stories satirized the Edwardian social scene in macabre and cruel ways. He was openly a misogynist, an anti-Semite, and a reactionary. He is considered a master of the short story, and is often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy Parker.

Munro was born in Akyab, Burma as the son of Charles Augustus Munro, an inspector-general for the Burma police. His mother, the former Mary Frances Mercer, died in 1872, killed by a runaway cow. He was brought up in England with his brother and sister by his grandmother and aunts in a straitlaced household, the humor in which he only appreciated in later life.

Munro was educated at Pencarwick School in Exmoth and the Bedford Grammar School. In 1893 Munro joined the Burma police. Three years later, failing health forced his resignation and return to England, where he started his career as a journalist, writing for newspapers such as the Westminster Gazette, Daily Express, Bystander, Morning Post, and Outlook.

In 1900 Munro's first book appeared, The Rise of the Russian Empire, a historical study modelled upon Edward Gibbon's famous The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It was followed in 1902 by Not-So-Stories, a collection of short stories.

From 1902 to 1908 Munro worked as a foreign correspondent for The Morning Post in the Balkans, Russia, and Paris, then settled in London. Many of the stories from this period feature the elegant and effete Reginald and Clovis, who take heartless and cruel delight in the discomfort or downfall of their conventional and pretentious elders. In 1914 his novel When William Came was published, in which he portrayed what might happen if the German emperor conquered England.

At the start of World War I, although officially over age, Munro joined the Army as an ordinary soldier, refusing a commission. He was killed by a sniper on November 14, 1916 in France, near Beaumont-Hamel[?]. Munro was sheltering in a shell crater and his last words, according to several sources, were "Put that damned cigarette out!" After his death his sister Ethel destroyed most of his papers and wrote her own account of their childhood.

Saki's work is in the public domain, and some of it can be found on the Web. Much of it was published posthumously.

  • 1900: The Rise of the Russian Empire
  • 1902: Not-So-Stories
  • 1902: The Westminster Alice (with F. Carruthers Gould)
  • 1904: Reginald (ftp://wiretap.spies.com/Library/Classic/reginald.hh)
  • 1910: Reginald in Russia (http://promo.net/cgi-promo/pg/t9.cgi?entry=1870)
  • 1911: The Chronicles of Clovis (http://www.cs.cmu.edu/Web/People/rgs/clovis-table)
  • 1912: The Unbearable Bassington (http://promo.net/cgi-promo/pg/t9.cgi?entry=555)
  • 1914: Beasts and Super-Beasts (http://promo.net/cgi-promo/pg/t9.cgi?entry=269)
  • 1914: "The East Wing" (play, in Lucas's Annual)
  • 1914: When William Came
  • 1923: The Toys of Peace (http://promo.net/cgi-promo/pg/t9.cgi?entry=1477)
  • 1924: The Square Egg and Other Sketches
  • 1924: "The Watched Pot" (play, with Cyril Maude)
  • 1926-1927: The Works of Saki (8 vols.)
  • 1930: Collected Stories
  • 1933: Novels and Plays
  • 1934: "The Miracle-Merchant" (in One-Act Plays for Stage and Study 8)
  • 1950: The Best of Saki (ed. by G. Greene)
  • 1963: The Bodley Head Saki
  • 1981: Saki, (by A.J. Langguth, includes six uncollected stories)
  • 1976: The Complete Saki
  • 1976: Short Stories (ed. by John Letts)
  • 1995: The Secret Sin of Septimus Brope, and Other Stories


Also: any of several monkeys of the genus Pithecia, of tropical South America, having a golden-brown to black, thick, shaggy coat and a long, bushy, nonprehensile tail.



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