Illustrated by Osbert Lancaster
A satisfying collection of deliciously dark tales, from the unrivalled master of the comic short story – perfect for savouring one by one, or gobbled-up in a single sitting.
'Start a Saki story and you will finish it. Finish one and you will start another, and having finished them all you will never forget them'
Hector Hugh Munro (1870–1916), better known as Saki, was a peerless master of the short story – with the wit of Oscar Wilde, the breeziness of P.G. Wodehouse and the macabre edge of Roald Dahl.
This rich collection gathers together his very best, all of them classics by a writer at the peak of his powers. With his trademark black humour, Saki subverts the conventions of Edwardian society and pops the bubble of upper-class pretension. He conjures up the child's point of view – the wonder of the forbidden place, the anger at injustices perpetrated by cruel adults, the delight of a carefully exacted revenge. And he sends shivers down the spine with his tales of the supernatural.
'Tell me a story,' said the Baroness … 'What sort of story?' asked Clovis, giving his croquet mallet a valedictory shove into retirement. 'One just true enough to be interesting and not true enough to be tiresome,' said the Baroness.'
In Saki's world, anything can happen. An adolescent werewolf chaperones a group of Sunday School infants, a talking cat causes acute embarrassment with his revelations, and a put-upon child literally wishes death on an oppressive aunt … At any moment, a hyena may appear on an English country lane or a wolf step into the drawing-room. With their care-free pranksters and pagan princes, compulsive gamblers and aristocratic amnesiacs, conmen and kleptomaniacs, Saki's stories truly have it all: meticulous construction, delightful wordplay and surprise endings that pull the (Persian) rug from under your feet.
‘You are not really dying, are you?’ asked Amanda. 'I have the doctor’s permission to live till Tuesday,' said Laura.
This collection is wittily illustrated by Osbert Lancaster, pioneer of the pocket cartoon, whose insider's eye and sharp pen bring the world of Saki's stories vividly to life.
Hector Hugh Munro, better known by his nom de plume, Saki (allegedly after the Farsi cupbearer in The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam), was born in Akyab, British Burma, in 1870. On a return visit to England his mother died after being charged by a cow, leading Munro to be raised by his puritanical grandmother and aunts. After a short stint in the Imperial Burma Police, he began finding work as a journalist and wrote for The Westminster Gazette, the Daily ExpressThe Morning Post. His first book, the historical work The Rise of the Russian Empire (1900), enjoyed little success. Turning instead to satire, he found acclaim with such series of sketches as The Not So Stories and The Westminster Alice (both published in 1902). A prolific writer of short stories, Saki used his wit to highlight the many hypocrisies of Edwardian English society – often employing a dark sense of humour ahead of its time. In August 1914 he enlisted in the army, refusing a commission and instead preferring to serve as corporal and eventually lance sergeant. During the battle of Beaumont-Hamel, on 16 November 1916, he was fatally shot by a German sniper – according to sources, his final words were ‘Put that damned cigarette out!’
Osbert Lancaster was born in London in 1908 and studied at Oxford University, where he contributed cartoons to the university magazine Cherwell, and at the Slade School of Art. He worked with his friend John Betjeman as assistant editor at the Architectural Review and in 1936 released his first book,
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Review by fqgouvea on 20th Sep 2017
"Is this the same as the Best of Saki volume from some years ago? I love Saki's work, but I don't want to duplicate!"