The Penguin Complete Saki

Front Cover
Penguin Books, 1990 - Fiction - 944 pages
Macabre, acid and very funny, Saki's work drives a knife into the upper crust of English Edwardian life. Here are the effete and dashing heroes, Reginald, Clovis and Comus Bassington, and tea on the lawn with articulate duchesses, the smell of gunshot and

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User Review  - elucubrare - LibraryThing

Saki is one of those authors (like most, I believe) who are better taken in moderation. The Complete Works become wearing, though not entirely devoid of charm. One becomes steadily more aware of his ... Read full review

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User Review  - jameshold - LibraryThing

There was a time when I thought this was pretty cool. Now that I'm older it dawns on me that HH Munro must have hated the human race. His stories are funny in the sense that you get an occasional ... Read full review

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About the author (1990)

H. H. Munro, better known as "Saki," was born in Burma, the son of an inspector-general for the Burmese police. Sent to England to be educated at the Bedford Grammar School, he returned to Burma in 1893 and joined the police force there. In 1896, he returned again to England and began writing first for The Westminster Gazette and then as a foreign correspondent for The Morning Post. Best known for his wry and amusing stories, Saki depicts a world of drawing rooms, garden parties, and exclusive club rooms. His short stories at their best are extraordinarily compact and cameolike, wicked and witty, with a careless cruelty and a powerful vein of supernatural fantasy. They deal, in general, with the same group of upper-class Britishers, whose frivolous lives are sometimes complicated by animals---the talking cat who reveals their treacheries in love, the pet ferret who is evil incarnate. The nom de plume "Saki" was borrowed from the cupbearer in Omar Khayyam's (see Vol. 2) The Rubaiyat. Munro used it for political sketches contributed to the Westminster Gazette as early as 1896, later collected as Alice in Westminster. The stories and novels were published between that time and the outbreak of World War I, when he enlisted as a private, scorning a commission. He died of wounds from a sniper's bullet while in a shell hole near Beaumont-Hamel. One of his characters summed up Saki's stories as those that "are true enough to be interesting and not true enough to be tiresome.

In 1964, when Hay Fever (1925) was placed in the repertory of the newly organized National Theatre, Noel Coward professed to be grateful: "Bless you for admitting that I'm a classic." A week-long series of Coward played on BBC television in 1969; there have been major revivals in London and New York; plays long out of print have been republished in popular collections. At the start of the 1960s, though, Coward's reputation had been at an ebb, as he skirmished with the angry new drama. Coward had enjoyed no big success since Blithe Spirit of 1941. There have been attempts to assimilate the rehabilitated Coward to contemporary drama. Coward himself profited from the new freedom when, in 1965, his Song at Twilight discussed homosexuality, a subject that he had evaded throughout his career. A juvenile prodigy, Coward was by turns actor, director, composer, lyricist, autobiographer, and author of nearly 60 theater pieces. He even wrote screenplays, notably for In Which We Serve (1942) and Brief Encounter (1946). Although he specialized in light comedy, the so-called comedy of manners, he worked in many forms including patriotic spectacle, revue, musical, farce, even the problem play. Hay Fever, Blithe Spirit, and Private Lives (1930) have proved to be the most durable of his comedies, along with nine short plays presented as Tonight at 8:30. In each, characters demonstrate the combination of perpetual role playing, cool hedonism, and energizing self-absorption.

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