The Short Stories of Saki
David Stuart Davies looks at the work H. H. Munro, better known by his pen name of Saki, who is ...
"A little inaccuracy sometimes saves a ton of explanation. "
Hector Hugh Munro (Saki) was born in Akyab, Burma on 18 December 1870, the son of an officer in the Burma police. He had an enjoyable childhood until he and his sister and brother were sent to stay with two maiden aunts in Devon. After being educated at school in Exmouth and at Bedford Grammar School, he returned to Asia in his early twenties as an officer in the Colonial Burmese Military Police, but his health failed and he returned to England after only one year.
His first book, The Rise of the Russian Empire (1899) was the only one written in a serious vein. From then on, he concentrated on witty, mischievous and sometimes macabre stories which satirised Edwardian society and culture. He is considered a master of the short story and often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy Parker. He was influenced by Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, and Kipling, and in his turn, influenced A. A. Milne, Noël Coward, and P. G. Wodehouse. Saki, his adopted name, may be a reference to the cupbearer in the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam, a poem mentioned disparagingly by the eponymous character in Reginald on Christmas Presents and alluded to in some of his other stories.
Munro is widely believed to have been homosexual. He was a confidante of Siegfried Sassoon and allegedly kept ‘houseboys’ in Burma and London. It has been claimed that his sexuality and his dislike of his aunts introduced a misogynous element into his writings. He enlisted in the 22nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers at the start of World War l at the age of 44. He continued to write whilst fighting in the trenches and was promoted to corporal in 1916, having previously turned down offers of a commission. He was shot and killed by a German sniper on 16 November, 1916 near the French town of Beaumont-Hamel.
Several of his stories, were published posthumously and many compilations of his work have been published since his death. The Collected Short Stories of Saki is published by Wordsworth Editions.
TITLES BY HECTOR HUGH MUNRO