Read The Complete Saki by Saki Noël Coward Online


Hector Hugh Munro is perhaps the most graceful spokesman for England's "golden afternoon''--those slow and peaceful years prior to the outbreak of World War I. The good wit of bad manners, elegantly spiced with irony and deftly controlled malice, has made Saki stories small, perfect gems of the English language. Here for the first time, are the collected writings of Saki--Hector Hugh Munro is perhaps the most graceful spokesman for England's "golden afternoon''--those slow and peaceful years prior to the outbreak of World War I. The good wit of bad manners, elegantly spiced with irony and deftly controlled malice, has made Saki stories small, perfect gems of the English language. Here for the first time, are the collected writings of Saki--including all of his short stories ("Reginald", "Reginald in Russia", "The Chronicles of Clovis", "Beasts and Super-Beasts" "The Toys of Peace", and "The Square Egg"), his three novels (THE UNBEARABLE BASSINGTON, WHEN WILLIAM CAME and THE WESTMINSTER ALICE), and three plays (THE DEATHTRAP, KARL-LUDWIG'S WINDOW and THE WATCHED POT. You are invited to meet once again Clovis, Reginald, the Unbearable Bassington, and the other memorable characters etched so superbly by the pen of H.H. Munro. "In all literature, he was the first to employ successfully a wildly outrageous premise in order to make a serious point. I love that. And today the best of his stories are still better than the best of just about every other writer around."--Roald Dahl. Introduction by Noel Coward.(less)...

Title : The Complete Saki
Author :
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ISBN : 9780140184204
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 960 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Complete Saki Reviews

  • Meagan
    2019-03-03 08:12

    If someone thinks old books are boring, reads a few stories out of this, and still thinks so, i can only conclude they are crazy person. This is ridiculously funny literature; I love Saki!

  • Spike Gomes
    2019-03-01 09:11

    Saki is like fois gras; in a small plate after careful selection and preparation by the chef, it is absolutely divine, in large doses, one rather feels like the goose undergoing gavage instead. As the above proves, it's quite hard to be epigrammatic. Saki is the master of the epigrammatic short story. What I find rather interesting is how relatively obscure he is compared with Wilde, Coward and Wodehouse, all writers who satirized the aristocratic and upper middle classes of England. I chalk it up to him having a wickedly cruel edge to his wit, and an unnervingly misanthropic and morbid cast of character underneath the effete dandyism for a wide readership. Also as an added sin, he is far too socially conservative and nationalistic for the liberal readership of our era, and far far too aesthetically gay and disdainful of Christianity to be embraced by modern conservatives like Waugh was.The one mistake I made with this book was reading it all the way through. Keep this by your bedside and read a couple short stories before sleep (unless weird horror keeps you up, as some of his tales have that edge). What's rather sad is that he seems to have died before his literary gifts were in full bloom. His later novels and especially his short stories written at the front show a widening of perspective and emotion, far beyond the cruel children, selfish gossipy women and beautiful witty young men that make up most of his earlier body of work. The Unbearable Bassington takes what is usually his set piece for a cynical comedy of manners and then at the very end, reverses it into emotional realism as the real-life consequences of being a materialistic and status driven woman and a charming and witty yet dissipated and directionless young man come to fore in a morose ways other than to make a punchline. Even the last Clovis story has a bit of a wistfulness to go along with the jibing.Unlike many writers (most of them, I would venture), Saki put his money where his political and philosophical mouth was. He chose to go fight as a private in the trenches of the Western Front despite the fact that his age, fame and social class would all have allowed him far less deadly wartime service. Like a large portion of the young men he spent his time with there, telling stories to keep their morale up, he died senselessly. Like a character in one of his stories, he died in a most ironic way. Shot in the head by a sniper after telling a new recruit to put out his cigarette before their position was given away.

  • Jeffrey
    2019-03-12 04:12

    Wowie zowie this guy is good. I would not suggest reading this clear through. Saki is a short story author and 900 pages of short stories is a long hard slog of a read, no matter how good of an author he is. And he is good. There were two novels and a couple plays built in too. The novels made my back shiver as I finished each of them. The plays I would love to see performed. Saki is an Edwardian satirist. Given how many off that genre exist, the Edwardian age must have been rather risible. He is darker thanP.G. Wodehouse orJerome K. Jerome, there is no Jeeves to rescue Wooster and the stakes are much higher than a boat ride on the Thames. Bring your sense of humor and proportion. Prepare to learn about human kind, and the inanity and insanity that made the terror of the coming decades possible.

  • Jeff
    2019-03-13 02:17

    Saki’s short stories are among the funniest things I’ve read in my life. Imagine O. Henry’s stories, with their surprise endings, as if written by Oscar Wilde — the sentimentality replaced by mordant wit and an utter delight in language and wordplay (“the black sheep of a rather greyish family”).These little gems — most no more than four or five pages long — are positively addictive. Try ‘The Reticence of Lady Anne’, ‘Gabriel-Ernest’, ‘Tobermory’, Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger’, ‘Sredni Vashtar’, ‘Wratislav’, ‘Laura’, ‘The Scharz-Metterklume Method’, ‘The Lumber-Room’.... -Alan

  • Huck Finn
    2019-02-24 04:10

    This is the most savagely funny writing I've ever stumbled across. I think it is a book to own, and read a few short stories now and then. Saki was recommended to me by a Science Fiction author speaking at a book festival. She said that Saki was her strongest literary influence when she was a young reader because he expanded her idea of what literature could be. Not sure exactly what she meant, but Saki has a crazy imagination, and he certainly packs a memorable story into a two or three page vignette.

  • K.N.
    2019-03-21 04:24

    Saki is definitely someone who should continue to be read and taught. It's been over a hundred years since most of his work has been written, yet his humor and insight are more than relevant now. I laughed out loud several times while I read through this 900+ page collection. I wrote separate reviews for the novellas/novels at the beginning of the collection. My review of When William Came is here. I was not a fan. My review of The Unbearable Bassington is here. I am a mega-fan for Bassington.I can't say much else about why I loved this collection as much as I did, not coherently anyway, so I'm going to finish this review with the collection of quotes I highlighted and compiled as I read.Awesome Insights"Time is always something of a narcotic you know. Things seem absolutely unbearable, and then bit by bit we find out that we are bearing them."- When William Came"It is one thing to face the music, it is another thing to dance to it."- When William Came"Whom the gods wish to render harmless they first afflict with sanity."- When William Came"One likes to escape from oneself occasionally."- Reginald on the Academy"To have reached thirty," said Reginald, "is to have failed in life."- Reginald on the Academy"Trouble is not one of those fancies you can take up and drop at any moment; it's like a grouse-moor or the opium-habit - once you start it you've got to keep it up."- Reginald at the Carlton"The English have a proverb, 'Conscience makes cowboys of us all.'""I didn't know (view spoiler)[Wratislav (hide spoiler)] had a conscience.""My dear Sophie, he hasn't. It's other people's consciences that send one abroad in a hurry."- Wratislav"Each feels that she has nursed a viper in her bosom. Nothing fans the flame of human resentment so much as the discovery that one's bosom has been utilised as a snake sanatorium."- The HenIt was, of course, deplorable that any one should treat the truth as an article temporarily and excusably out of stock...- Quail Seed"Children with Hyacinth's temperament don't know better as they grow older; they merely know more."- HyacinthBrilliant Character Descriptions"Comus," she said quietly and wearily, "you are an exact reversal of the legend of Pandora's Box. You have all the charm and advantages that a boy could want to help him in the world, and behind it all there is the fatal damning gift of utter hopelessness." "I think," said Comus, "that is the best description that anyone has ever given of me."- The Unbearable Bassington[Reginald] was reclining in a comfortable chair with the dreamy, far-away look that a volcano might wear just after it had desolated entire villages.- ReginaldIn a world that is supposed to be chiefly swayed by hunger and by love Mrs. Packletide was an exception; her movements and motives were largely governed by dislike of Loona Bimberton.- Mrs. Packletide's Tiger"I suppose we are in some danger?" said Miss Mebbin.She was not actually nervous about the wild beast, but she had a morbid dread of performing an atom more service than she had been paid for.- Mrs. Packletide's TigerWhatever good qualities Lester Slaggby may have possessed, and he was in some respects charming, courage could certainly never be imputed to him. ... He was frankly afraid of animals, nervous with firearms, and never crossed the Channel without mentally comparing the numerical proportion of lifebelts to passengers. On horseback he seemed to require as many hands as a Hindu god, at least four for clutching the reins, and two more for patting the horse soothingly on the neck.- The Easter EggMost of the aunt's remarks seemed to begin with "Don't," and nearly all of the children's remarks began with "Why?"- The Story-TellerThe artistic groups that foregathered at the little restaurant contained so many young women with short hair and so many young men with long hair, who supposed themselves to be abnormally gifted in the domain of music, poetry, painting, or stagecraft, with little or nothing to support the supposition, that a self-announced genius of any sort in their midst was inevitably suspect.- On ApprovalRex Dillot was nearly twenty-four, almost good-looking and quite penniless.- Fate"It's like everything else that belongs to her - her car, her dinner-parties, even her headaches, they are all superlative; no one else ever had anything like them."- The Occasional GardenIn an age when it has become increasingly difficult to accomplish anything new or original, Bavton Bidderdale interested his generation by dying of a new disease. 'We always knew he would do something remarkable one of these days,' observed his aunts; 'he has justified our belief in him.'- The Infernal ParliamentWicked Insults / Sick Burns(view spoiler)["I certainly don’t think Elaine is going to be very happy," said her sister, "but at least Courtenay saved her from making the greatest mistake she could have made — marrying that young Bassington." "He has also," said Mrs. Goldbrook, "helped her to make the next biggest mistake of her life — marrying Courtenay Youghal."- The Unbearable Bassington (hide spoiler)]"There are certain fixed rules that one observes for one's own comfort. For instance, never be flippantly rude to any inoffensive grey-bearded stranger that you may meet in pine forests or hotel smoking-rooms on the Continent. It always turns out to be the King of Sweden.""The restraint must be dreadfully irksome to you. When I was younger, boys of your age used to be nice and innocent."- Reginald at the TheatreUntil tea-time that day she had been unable to discover in what direction, if any, his cleverness lay.- Tobermory"When your inclusion in this house-party was suggested Sir Wilfrid protested that you were the most brainless woman of his acquaintance, and that there was a wide distinction between hospitality and the care of the feeble-minded."- Tobermory"Is he anywhere to be heard?" asked Clovis; "if not, he must be at least two miles away."- The Quest"My poor Elsa would be miserable with him.""A little misery wouldn't matter very much with her; it would go so well with the way she does her hair..."- Wratislav"Why let her wear saffron colour?""I always think it goes with her complexion.""Unfortunately it doesn't. It stays with it. Ugh."- WratislavWitty Miscellaneous Saki-sms"...glory hasn't come very much my way lately."- When William CameBy the time one has educated [aunts] to an appreciation of the fact that one does not wear red woollen mittens in the West End, they die, or quarrel with the family, or do something equally inconsiderate.- Mas Presents"If you're going to be rude," said Reginald, "I shall dine with you to-morrow night as well."- Reginald on the Academy"Cats have nine lives, you know," said Sir Wilfrid heartily."Possibly," answered Tobermory; "but only one liver."- Tobermory"We've got some Boy-scouts helping us as auxiliaries.""Boy-scouts!""Yes; when they understood there was real killing to be done they were even keener than the men."- The Unrest-Cure(view spoiler)["The Boy-scouts mistook my signal, and have killed the postman. I've had very little practice in this sort of thing, you see. Another time I shall do better."- The Unrest-Cure (hide spoiler)]"I love Americans, but not when they try to talk French. What a blessing it is that they never try to talk English."- Adrian"We've lost Baby," she screamed."Do you mean that it's dead, or stampeded, or that you staked it at cards and lost it that way?" asked Clovis lazily.- The Quest(view spoiler)["I found him sitting in the middle of the road," said Rose-Marie weakly."You can't take him back and leave him there," said Clovis; "the highway is meant for traffic, not to be used as a lumber-room for disused miracles."- The Quest (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)["Elsa has run away with the Rodenstahl's chauffeur! ... Such a thing as that no one in our family has ever done," gasped the Baroness."Perhaps he didn't appeal to them in the same way," suggested the Gräfin judicially.The Baroness began to feel that she was not getting the astonishment and sympathy to which catastrophe entitled her.- Wratislav (hide spoiler)]Eshley had painted a successful and acceptable picture of cattle drowsing picturesquely under walnut trees, and as he had begun, so, of necessity, he went on. His "Noontide Peace," a study of two dun cows under a walnut tree, was followed by "A Mid-day Sanctuary," a study of a walnut tree, with two dun cows under it.- The Stalled Ox'There seems to be a very great public interest in the debate,' exlaimed Bidderdale.'Members are excused from attending the debates if they so desire,' the Fiend proceeded to explain; 'it is one of their most highly valued privileges. On the other hand, constituents are compelled to listen throughout to all the speeches. After all, you must remember, we are in Hell.'- The Infernal ParliamentSome of my favorite stories were Reginald's Peace Poem, Gabriel-Ernest, Tobermory, The Talking-Out of Tarrington, The Recessional, The Boar-Pig, The Mappined Life, and The Pond...

  • Lynda
    2019-03-23 02:40

    Almost every single story HH Munro ever wrote becomes an immediate favourite. His writing brings to life the mediocrity and occasional poverty of the Edwardian middle and lower classes and the ridiculous oppulence and social ineptitudes of the upper middle Edwardian classes. Always written with a dark humour, Saki has been a firm personal favourite since early childhood when at the age of 7, I was introduced to Clovis in all his cheeky glory, Conradin, the soon to be late Laura and the very late Lady Anne.

  • Faye
    2019-03-08 07:11

    Saki (or H.H. Monro) only wrote a handful of novelettes, short stories, and plays before he was killed in WWI. What little he did write was top-knotch quality, full of biting satire and timeless wit. One can only guess what future masterpieces died with him on that battlefield. It's heartbreaking to think about. I have no doubt that he would have been listed among the greatest authors Britain has ever produced.In a way, though, it's fitting that he would die the way he did. Two of his novelettes (When William Came and The Westminster Alice) showed how strongly he felt about standing up to fight for your country. When William Came (written in 1913) is a somewhat unnerving look at what might have become of Britain if they had sat back and let Germany invade them. The Westminster Alice is a caricature of the government leaders of the day, written as an Alice in Wonderland parody. He was very good at making everyday happenings and everyman opinions look every bit as ridiculous as they really are.The other novelette in this collection was The Unbearable Bassington. He began it with the author's note "This story has no moral. If it points out an evil, at any rate it suggests no remedy." On the contrary, I think it did have a moral, and if you were reading closely you would know exactly how to remedy the evil it pointed out - Bassington did nothing his whole life but sabotage every chance he was presented to better himself, until finally it was too late. Considering how wittily the story was written, it was quite tragic when you think about it.I have to include a bunch of quotes in this review, I just HAVE to. The man could craft a sentence like few have ever been able to do -She came of a family whose individual members went through life, from the nursery to the grave, with as much tact and consideration as a cactus-hedge might show in going through a crowded bathing tent.Merla was one of those human flies that buzz; in crowded streets, at bazaars and in warm weather, she attained to the proportions of a human bluebottle. Lady Caroline Benaresq had openly predicted that a special fly-paper was being reserved for her accommodation in another world; others, however, held the opinion that she would be miraculously multiplied in a future state, and that four or more Merla Blathlingtons, according to deserts, would be in perpetual and unremitting attendance on each lost soul."He's just produced a play that has had a big success in Moscow and is certain to be extremely popular all over Russia. In the first three acts the heroine is supposed to be dying of consumption; in the last act they find she is really dying of cancer.""Are the Russians really such a gloomy people?""Gloom-loving, but not in the least gloomy. They merely take their sadness pleasurably, just as we are accused of taking our pleasures sadly.""Isn't he at an agricultural college or something of the sort?""Yes, studying to be a gentleman farmer, he told me. I didn't ask if both subjects were compulsory."Quentock was a young artist whose abilities were just receiving due recognition from the critics; that the recognition was not overdue he owed largely to his perception of the fact that if one hides one's talent under a bushel one must be careful to point out to everyone the exact bushel under which it is hidden."As an old lady of my acquaintance observed the other day, some people are born with a sense of how to clothe themselves, others acquire it, others look as if their clothes had been thrust upon them." She gave Lady Caroline her due quotation marks, but the sudden tactfulness with which she looked away from her cousin's frock was entirely her own idea."My dear Mr. Greech," said Lady Caroline, "we all know that Prime Ministers are wedded to the truth, but like other wedded couples they sometimes live apart.""What is young Storre's profession?" some one had once asked concerning him. "He has a great many friends who have independent incomes," had been the answer.Tony Luton was a young man who had sprung from the people, and had taken care that there should be no recoil.He was more quietly dressed than the usual run of music-hall successes; he had looked critically at life from too many angles not to know that though clothes cannot make a man they can certainly damn him.Joan Mardle had reached forty in the leisurely untroubled fashion of a woman who intends to be comely and attractive at fifty. She cultivated a jovial, almost joyous manner, with a top-dressing of hearty good will and good nature which disarmed strangers and recent acquaintances; on getting to know her better they hastily re-armed themselves. Some one had once aptly described her as a hedgehog with the protective mimicry of a puffball. If there was an awkward remark to be made at an inconvenient moment before undesired listeners, Joan invariably made it, and when the occasion did not present itself she was usually capable of creating it. She was not without a certain popularity, the sort of popularity that a dashing highwayman sometimes achieved among those who were not in the habit of travelling on his particular highway."I say, this is a top-hole omelette," said Ronnie. It was his only contribution to the conversation, but it was a valuable one.She had attained to that desirable feminine altitude of purse and position when people who go about everywhere know you well by sight and have never met your dress before.Hubert Herlton's parents had brought him into the world, and some twenty-one years later had put him into a motor business. Having taken these pardonable liberties they had completely exhausted their ideas of what to do with him, and Hubert seemed unlikely to develop any ideas of his own on the subject.Aaaaaand there I should stop, though those quotes were only from the novelettes. The plays would have to be quoted pretty much in their entirety, so I'd better not get started!In summary: READ SAKI. Good times.

  • Lisa H.
    2019-03-23 06:11

    One of my favorite memories involves reading Saki stories aloud to a friend while she drove her VW Beetle (the original ones, not the new type), full of all her worldly possessions, through a torrential thunderstorm outside Philadelphia. The Why of that scenario would take too long to explain, but let's say the whole day was pretty memorable.

  • Lisa
    2019-02-26 08:30

    B and N released a great compilation of his works last year that was very reasonably priced. Saki is like having drinks with your most sarcastic, funny, ironic friend -- you leave giggling, with your head still spinning. His stories are all about society life among the rich in England at the turn of the 20th century, and are deliciously mean. Come on, you can't always read about nice people.

  • Kushal Thaman
    2019-02-24 07:39

    A nice collection of short stories that take to numerous lovely tales all around the world.

  • Sam Quixote
    2019-03-13 03:17

    I'm a huge fan of short stories and always read about as many short story collections per year as I do novels, by authors as diverse as Helen Simpson, David Sedaris, TC Boyle, Roald Dahl, Michel Faber, and Wells Tower, to the literary journal McSweeney's. I've heard of Hector Hugh Munro or Saki for a number of years but is one of those classic authors I'd never read that I decided to tackle this year. So how do his stories measure up a century after publication? Not bad, there were a few stories I enjoyed but on the whole they're unfortunately quite mundane. The ones I enjoyed showed Saki introducing macabre and mystical elements into his tales. "Gabriel-Ernest" is a great baroque story about a boy werewolf while "Sredni Vashtar" is about a boy who befriends a ferret only to create a pagan religion around it, then when his cousin gets rid of the ferret from the house he prays for the ferret-god to get rid of his cousin... then his cousin disappears! "The Peace of Mowsle Barton" is a story of a peaceful village of warring witches while the pagan theme continues in "The Music on the Hill" where an offering to the pagan god Pan is spoiled by an unwitting young woman who is then gored by a stag's antlers. There are also stories of hyenas in the English countryside ("Esme" and "The Quest") as well as talking cats ("Tobermory") all of which I really enjoyed. Then there are the bulk of the stories which are mostly about young people or children outwitting their elders. These stories are often about slight things like misunderstandings, like a gent who writes rhyming couplets about women, a pet monkey stealing lozenges, a woman transformed into a she-wolf (but not really). They're readable in that they're well written but they're not very compelling and I often found myself sighing at the almost punchline type ending to a story. Saki comes across as a very smart, self-aware writer of then-modern stories, but the stories don't measure up as well as they once did and as such don't have the same effect on the readers of today. Don't get me wrong, there are some good stories here but there are a number of stories here that don't sustain the level of storytelling or interest. Shame too as I really wanted to like Saki. I guess I just expected more to his work.

  • Nancy
    2019-03-25 04:16

    One of my treasures, a 2nd hand copy that took a nip out of my wallet in poorer days. I have several favourite short story authors including Guy de Maupassant and W. Somerset Maugham, but Saki has been in my heart since school day anthologies included "The Window" and " Mrs. Packletide's Tiger."H.H. Munro has been often described as malicious, which I have never thought was a good description. Mocking and merciless perhaps, even unforgiving, but not malicious... although Reginald or Clovis, or even Vera might at times. However, he was not afraid of delivering justice or just desserts, but that isn't malicious - that is righteous.What I find is that a little Saki is not enough. Having recently purchased and read "A Shot in the Dark" which holds 13 rediscovered stories and a non-Clovis Tobermory - it was too brief and unsatisfying and only a complete immersion in the Complete Saki would do. Kind of like a tasting menu of 2 courses - simply not enough to sate the appetite and leaves one unsettled and dissatisfied, no matter how delicious.While my MOST favourite short story was, and is, "The Storyteller", I find that I like reading the entire canon - that as a whole they balance one another - satire, political observation, irony a plenty, mysticism, just desserts, wit, dissection, all meld into a complete experience. I will note that I reviewed "The Unbearable Bassington" separately, simply because I found it more impactful... in my advancing age, I guess.

  • Faith Bradham
    2019-03-05 03:39

    Whenever someone gets together a huge bookful of short stories I always get tired and a little bored in the middle. This happened here, but there were novels and plays in the back and so I just skipped to those. But I did make it all the way to "Toys" before skipping out. ;) However, the short stories were very funny and/or disturbing, as the case may be and I enjoyed them. But after about 100 one gets tired of them. Now for the novels. The Unbearable Bassington needed another chapter to tie up Elaine ... as it is I just assume she had a life of unhappiness, which is probly what he wanted to do. :( The final chapter was rather brilliant, I just didn't want it to end there.I did like When William Came, but I did not like The Westminster Alice. Maybe I am too picky?His tragic plays were a little too melodramatic, but I think that that is what he was going for. But The Watched Pot was brilliant and made me giggle. :)

  • Christiane
    2019-03-13 04:30

    I never heard of Saki until I was in college, in London on a study abroad and we saw a play based on his short stories. I laughed so hard I almost peeded my pants (it didn't help that we'd stopped at a pub first). Saki wrote witty little stories about Edwardian society that sometimes, in "Sredni Vashtar" for example, turn quite satisfyingly horrible. Saki did not have a particularly happy life. He was raised by strict aunts (who get what they deserve in his stories), was (most likely) homosexual at a time when it was still illegal in Britian, and though 43 years old when WWI began, enlisted and later died in the trenches of France. His last words (supposedly) were "Put that damned cigarette out!"

  • Gail Sanders
    2019-02-22 01:14

    Saki is a palate cleanser when you've been reading or writing dull prose. He'll help you see the folly of human nature and assure you that it's always been our fate to suffer from self-importance and self-delusion. He is gratifyingly mocking and merciless and impossible to imitate.You can't go wrong with the following stories:"The Open Window": compact perfection, one of my favorite stories ever"The Penance": Saki at his creepiest"Sredni Vashtar": perhaps his best story"Tobermory": Saki at his most pitiless"The Storyteller": how to while away the time in a confined spaceA book to keep permanently on one's nightstand.

  • Brandon Henke
    2019-03-13 07:18

    Conniving countesses croqueting in tea gardens. Fox hunting in South Staffordshire with men of vague Teutonic complexion. Missing aunts, lugubrious uncles, and beasts of a great variety. 944 pages of luxurious Edwardian prose.

  • Simon Mcleish
    2019-03-14 06:15

    Originally published on my blog here between February and October 2001.ReginaldMonro's first collection of short stories is itself extremely short; twenty or so in under forty pages in this edition. Most of them are not really stories, but little anecdotes, providing context for a witty remark from effete, advanced and cynical Reginald. These include what is probably Saki's most famous phrase: "She was a good cook, as cooks go, and as cooks go, she went."The purpose of these vignettes is to satirise society. This is done as much through the character of Reginald as it is through what he says and does. He is a product of high society, and yet something of an outsider in that he does not take it seriously. Oscar Wilde and Noël Coward are the kind of figures that Reginald brings to mind; Wilde was clearly an influence on Saki, and Coward, who wrote the introduction to this collected edition of his work, was an admirer.Reginald in RussiaSaki's second collection of short stories did not appear until six years after the first, and there are significant changes. Reginald was a monothematic collection of extremely short commentaries on the British upper class social scene centred around the ascerbic, effete young man Reginald. Here, he features in only one story, providing the title for the collection, and it is half hearted in comparison with the earlier Reginald stories.One of the strands in Saki's story telling is to write about something unpleasant behind a facade of apparently normal British life, usually something on the very of the supernatural; Sredni Vashtar in Beasts and Superbeasts is the most famous example. They are from a genre which today includes writers such as Robert Holdstock, and many of them are quite disturbing to read. The earliest of them, Gabriel-Ernest appears in this collection, incongrous alongside the society satire.The Unbearable BassingtonAt the beginning of Monro's first novel, the reader assumes that what they are reading is going to be exactly like his Reginald stories, but on a larger scale. Comus Bassington is another of the upper class young men with a cynical outlook on life. The plot is basically that his mother keeps trying to arrange things for Comus - the opportunity for a job as a secretary, or an advantageous marriage, for the Bassington fmaily is not so well off as they appear - only for Comus to spoil things by selfishness or an unwillingness to be guided by another.The first thing which makes The Unbearable Bassington different is that Comus is not the sardonic observer that Reginald is. There is plenty of dissection of the foolishness of high society, but Comus is not the dissector. He is not sufficiently interested in the world outside himself to comment on it.What makes The Unbearable Bassington more than social satire is the quite extraordinary power of the ending, which is extremely effective. Saki is famous for his satire; he has a marvellous if sometimes nasty imagination; but here he shows a literary merit quite different from those normally associated with him. The Unbearable Bassington is one of the peaks of his writing.The Watched PotIn this "complete works" of Saki, there are three items listed as plays. Two of them are really only sketches, about five pages each, which would fit into the collections of short stories quite well. (There are a couple of short stories which are actually in play format already.) The Watched Pot is different, a collaboration of considerable length with Charles Maude.In the play, the largely offstage character Hortensia Bavvel wields an absolute tyrrany not just over her household but over everyone with whom she comes into contact, trying to mould a resentful and ungrateful world to be the way she thinks it ought to be. When her son marries, however, her power will come to an end, and because of the damage she is unwittingly doing to the prospects of the Party at the next election, many people have turned into matchmakers. Trevor shows no preference for any of the young women to whom he is introduced, and exen exhibits a tendency to fall asleep whenever left alone with one.According to the introductory note, Maude said that the basic dialogue was his responsibility, while Monro provided the wit; Maude's major problem was to keep the witty remarks sparse enough that they didn't swamp the whole story. The Watched Pot is very funny, and contains some memorable examples of Saki's humour; Maude's input ensures that it is not as stilted and undramatic as the short plays by Saki alone.The Chronicles of ClovisSaki's third collection of short stories continues the trend toward the macabre shown in Reginald in Russia and The Unbearable Bassington. Many of them feature a new hero, Clovis Sangrail, who is a similar disenchanted upper class youth to but has a more malicious streak than either Reginald or Comus.There are a fair number of stories in the collection, however, which do not involve Clovis. These tend to be the more supernatural, including The Music on the Hill, which is a further development of the idea of Gabriel-Ernest from Reginald in Russia of the savage demigod in the English countryside. Bringing this theme into a more domestic setting is one of Saki's most famous and most memorable stories, Shredni Vashtar, with its depiction of the childhood imagination as chilling as The Lord of the Flies.The Chronicles of Clovis and Beasts and Superbeasts are Saki's most consistently excellent collections. The stories here are marred in one or two places by the fact that witty remarks are repeated, but that it a minor blemish.When William CameIn 1914, Monro felt that appeasement was the wrong way to deal with Germany; he wanted to sound a warning that if the British did not prepare for war, the consequence would be subjugation. This novel is the consequence, propaganda swiftly overtaken by events; he wanted to portray a Britain which had lost a war and been annexed by Germany to shock public opinion towards war preparation.From the perspective of those who lived after that war when it cane, who know how horrific it was, to have tried to bring it about seems quite an immoral act - though of course Monro felt he was doing his duty. There are certainly parts of the novel which now seem obscene, in the light of later twentieth century events (one of the results of the German victory which is deplored is a massive influx of German Jews into British society). As the war virtually destroyed the gentlemanly way of life which is the essence of Saki's writing, it may well be the case that had Monro survived the war - he enlisted in 1914 and was killed in France in 1916 - he might have preferred the occupation he depicted. Indeed, from a late twentieth century perspective, one really striking thing about the novel is the naivéte of the "horrors" of the occupation comparted with, say, the treatment of the Poles by Nazi Germany.Some of the predictions are interesting, given the aftermath of the war. One particularly ironic comment is the reasoning given by German newspapers campaigning for the annexation of a defeated Britain: "They pointed out that Britain, defeated and humiliated, but with enormous powers of recuperation, would be a dangerous and inevitable enemy for the Germany of tomorrow..." This is a pretty good description of the situation in postwar Germany which was so important in the rise of the Nazis to power.Because of the purpose for which it is written, When William Came is the least amusing of Saki's fiction; it would certainly be forgotten today were it not for his other stories. It is in parts interesting, but perhaps it would be better if it had been forgotten.Beasts and SuperbeastsThe best known collection of Monro's short stories is also a bit uneven. Most are fine, but one or two feel as though he were just going through the motions. The savagery of Sredni Vashtar is missing, but the best stories here (The Story-Teller and The Lumber Room) are also about child psychology and adult incomprehension of childhood. It is probably the attention-grabbing, Nietszchian title which has ensured the survival of this collection, though it would at least serve as a good introduction to Saki's writing.The Toys of PeaceThe first of two collections of Saki stories published after his death in the First World War, stories originally printed beforehand, was given a bitter title, an indication of how remote the world chronicled by Monro seemed even ten years later. (The other, The Square Egg, contgains stories written during the War.)As far as the stories themselves are concerned, they are generally poorer in quality than those collected in Monro's lifetime. The edge is missing, particularly in the eerie supernatural themes which run through much of the fiction. On the other hand, there are some excellent stories here, and both the merciless dissection of the stupidities of society and the evocation of the savagery that children sometimes have is present.Standout stories include Morleva, about a doll, and Shock Tactics, about a young man whose mother still reads his letters, severely cramping his social life.The Square EggThe second collection of Saki's writing published in the decade after his death is very short; it contains just five or six pieces. The majority are more journalism than storytelling, on subjects such as the way that the Western Front affected the behaviour of birds or on British politics. The pieces about the front - the one just mentioned and The Square Egg itself, about a con man preying on soldiers just behind the lines - are most memorable, but the collection is generally not as interesting as Saki's others. This is because the writing has dated more rapidly, as it requires knowledge of events now obscure, a fault shared with his other brief political satire, Alice in Westminster.

  • Amber Elby
    2019-02-27 08:20

    Saki deserves more fans. "The Interlopers" is an amazing work of fiction with probably the best final word of anything I have read.

  • Kevin Gross
    2019-02-27 02:34

    Great fun to read, which I've done in sips over the past year. If you enjoy Wilde and Wodehouse, you are likely to enjoy Saki's skewering of the entitled class in his short stories and plays.

  • Tony
    2019-03-08 09:28

    Saki (H. H. Munro). WHEN WILLIAM CAME: A Story of London Under the Hohenzollerns. (1913). ***. and, WESTMINSTER ALICE. (1902). **. Both of these novels by the author, along with The Unbearable Bassington, (see earlier blurb) are included in this volume of his complete works. Unfortunately, they do not rate as well as the Bassington novel, though they were unique for their time. “William,” is set in London after a war between England and Germany in which Germany was the victor. It was an entry into the genre called “invasion” novels – popular at the time – which predicted WW I based on the political atmosphere at the time. The William of the title was Kaiser Wilhelm, who really doesn’t appear in the book. The story concerns Murrey Yeovil, an adventurer who was traveling in the Siberian regions when he fell ill and was forced to remain in that remote region for his recovery for a long period. During that period, he was cut off from any news of the outside world. When he recovered and returned to England and his wife, Cicely, he found that the country was now ruled by Germany as a fait accompli, after a single battle in which the English were swamped. It was apparently a relatively bloodless battle since the Brits were totally unprepared for war. It finds the English moneyed class still trying to maintain their former existences while under new rulership, though countless thousands of them had emigrated to their colonies. To those who stayed, it was life as usual, although with the utmost attempts at adapting to their new environment. Saki takes this opportunity to flay the Brits in their unpreparedness for potential war with Europe and their hidebound attachment to their customary activities that led to their rapid overthrow. There’s lots of sardonic commentary here, but not necessarily of the witty kind. Although he manages to make fun of the class structure, he manages to show it as a weakness of character that could very well lead to the destruction of the whole British system. In Westminster Alice, more a parody than a novel, he uses the Alice in Wonderland characters of Lewis Carroll to describe the current members of the government. Although provided with footnotes to let us know who each of the characters represent, we are still at a loss as to his barbs’ significance unless we are serious historians of the period. I suspect that this is more of a directed British novel than one that translates well across borders.

  • Mikey Campling
    2019-03-20 04:10

    Let me set the tone of this book review with three simple words: I love Saki.I discovered Saki's writing by accident whilst rifling through a pile of unpromising paperbacks on a second hand book stall, and since then, that battered old book has been with me all over the World. It's a perfect companion for journeys of all types and durations, and a great book to have by your bedside for those days when you're not sure what to read.Saki is a complete master of the short (and often very short) story. His writing is as light as spun sugar and as precise as a sniper's bullet. If you're the kind of reader who doesn't like to waste time reading unnecessary words, then let me introduce you to Saki, because he clearly didn't want to waste anyone's time.But there's more to Saki than mere economy of style. His stories are peopled by richly drawn characters and enlivened with Saki's razor sharp wit. In some ways the stories are wonderful period pieces, but many of the themes hold just as true today. There have always been people who've made fools of themselves and Saki takes delight in prodding them with a few well chosen words.The stories are short but perfectly formed - each one is a satisfying morsel. And they vary in tone so you won't be bored. Some stories are hilarious, some satirical - especially when poking fun at snobs and stuffed shirts, and some are quite dark. But what unites his stories is that they're all entertaining.Here, I hope without spoilers, is a flavour:Imagine a man who complains his life is dull to a stranger. The stranger promptly sets out to help the poor dullard out of his rut by bringing chaos to his life. That story is called The Unrest Cure.In another story, well meaning parents give their children non-violent toys in order to bring them up to be peace loving. Imagine their horror when the children's dark imaginations are played out in unexpected ways. The Toys of Peace.My favourite is probably The Interlopers - a chilling tale of rivalry and revenge, topped off with a deliciously dark ending. I also have a soft spot for The Reticence of Lady Anne, but I can't tell you anything about that because it's only one page long and I really don't want to spoil it for you.I hope I've convinced you to give Saki a go - you won't regret it.

  • Rhnair
    2019-03-19 06:13

    I had read a few of his stories many years back and I still recollect the humour quotient in those. Saki is a master of a flippant humour. His characters like Clovis are naughty to the core, but he makes them so lovable that I almost wish to emulate them in real life. This is a very good collection of his stories. And this exposed me to another variety of his work like the novel The Unbearable Bassigton. It a very serious one , so unlike of Saki. The other ones which I particularly like are - "The lost sanjak" is a vivid one about how when things go wrong, everything goes wrong."The Stampeding of Lady Bastable" - the agony undertaken to save forty nine shilling, I am still bursting with laughter "The Hen "- Clovis at his mischievous best , solving a big problem for his host and how . Do read"The open window"- how mischievous can one get "The lull "- once again , cant believe one can even imagine such things"The fur"- cautions how not to share ones woes with friends and why not to involve them into your affairs "Mark "- if you want to know how to get rid of unsolicited salesmen , do read this. There are so many more stories, giving a great flavour of the period of late 19th, early 20th century. But the revelation was the semi biography written by his friend Rothay Reynolds, whereby I came to know that apart from being a great story teller, Saki was a very honorable man , who ditched a life of luxury to go in to fight in the WW 1, who refused to take any special treatment in the Army for being Saki. Twice he was offered commission, but he refused to take it !! He would tell tales to amuse his fellow fighter, while all the while his seniors would urge his to take up any non fighting role - telling him that a brain like this was wasted as a private soldier, to which he would just smie. And he payed for all this with his life - shot through his head in the war.My respect for Saki has gone up many a notches after I read that . There are and would be so many story tellers, but not one like Saki. Am so glad I bought this collection. Better late than never

  • Michael
    2019-02-23 02:30

    The short story is, with the possible exception of the sonnet in English, the most difficult literary form to write successfully. The successful short short story is even more rare. Yet H. H. Munro (writing under the nom de plume "Saki") was able in his brief life to create scores of gems in this challenging literary form. Of the short stories I remember from my school years, I include Saki's "The Open Window" and "Sredni Vashtar" along with O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi," D. H. Lawrence's "The Rocking Horse Winner," Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," and Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants". Saki had a wicked sense of humor and used it to skewer the pretentiousness of Edwardian society. Influenced by Oscar Wilde and O. Henry, he in turn influenced A. A. Milne and P. G. Wodehouse. The stories have worn well over time, although there are the occasional bits of unfamiliar slang. Some have found traces of racism and misogyny in his stories, but that requires judging the stories by twenty-first century standards rather than considering them in the context of the time when they were written. Saki died on the front lines of France in 1916 along with so many others whose lives were wasted in that dreadful war, and who knows how many brilliant unwritten stories died with him. I like to read short stories in small batches as I am am engaged in reading longer works, so I have been working my way through the Saki corpus for some time (there are a lot of stories!). Saki was more successful as a short story writer than as a novelist, although there are two novels in this collection. Among my favorite stories, in addition to the two cited above are "The Wolves of Cernogratz," "The Name-Day," "The Interlopers," "The Elk," and "Excepting Mrs. Pentherby." Saki has a dark side that comes out in many of his best stories that makes him more interesting to me than Wodehouse, The true test is that having read them once, I enjoy rereading them again and again. They are just the right length to read before turning out the light for the night and almost always send me to sleep with a smile.

  • Sps
    2019-03-09 07:21

    A treat when I began it Lo These Many Years Ago* but very long, and not portable, so I put it aside. My estimate? At least 24 oz. and 120 cubic inches of wit and knavery, which is a lot of wit and knavery to hold in one hand on a crowded commuter train. Saki is kind of an Edwardian, upper-class James Thurber. Style trumps virtue in general, but also specifically at bridge-parties. Bores are disposed of creatively, vulgarity is frequently indulged, genteel subversive plots are hatched in drawing-rooms, and a strain of perverse kindness to animals runs throughout. Not unlike Cold Comfort Farm. It is of course a product of its time, and the racism and misogyny are unlovable aspects. Though one devious weasel of a niece does much to redeem Womanhood. The political references are also so very local and time-specific that I'm afraid even being told which Alice in Wonderland character is meant to represent which Member of parliament still didn't clarify matters, and the humor suffered for it. But if you want to be charmed by ingenious devilry, witty banter, and apricot waistcoats, look no further.Some favorite bits:Reginald on thank-you notes: "Of course I wrote and told my aunt that they were the one thing that had been wanting to make my existence blossom like a rose; I am afraid she thought me frivolous." (p.9)On a lady who has asked where to buy books: "You write pointing out that to have recourse to an ironmonger or a corn-dealer will only entail delay and disappointment, and suggest an application to a bookseller as the most hopeful thing. In a day or two she writes again: 'It is all right; I have borrowed it from your aunt.' Here, of course, we have an example of the Beyond-Shopper, one who has learned the Better Way..." (55) *That should be a chat/texting abbreviation: LTMYA.

  • Tracey
    2019-03-14 05:11

    To be honest, I didn't get all the way through The Complete Works of Saki - but since it's due back at the library today, I did want to comment on what I had finished.Saki is probably best known for his short stories: I imagine most of us have read "Tobermory", "Filboid Studge" and/or "The Schwartz-Metterklume Method" - all demonstrating his sly wit and tendency to write a twist in the story. The character of Reginald pokes fun at the high society of the Edwardian era in the first grouping of short stories, while the other collections roam a bit farther afield.I only had a chance to read the first two novels in this compendium: The Unbearable Bassington and When William Came. The first novel is basically an expansion of the Reginald-style short stories - two young men wooing the same girl; one an up-and-coming politician, the other a charming ne'er-do-well who feigns disinterest in that for which he really cares.When William Came, written in 1912, deals with the aftermath of a German victory over England. The two main characters, Mr. and Mrs. Yeovil approach this defeat in the best way they can. I found this second novel historically intriguing, with the following quote being rather prescient:"They grew soft," he resumed, "great world-commerce brings great luxury and luxury brings softness. They had everything to warn them, things happening in their own time and before their eyes and they would not be warned."I hope to get back to this tome to read the last novel and the plays -- but I believe Munro's genius is best displayed in his short stories. Recommended to anyone delighted by a clever turn of phrase and interested in the foibles of high society at the turn of the twentieth century.

  • David Kowalski
    2019-03-13 08:20

    Ok. This is tough. In fact it's unfair. In reading the complete short stories of a writer I feel placing one single rating, on what is essentially the bulk of Saki's created output, feels gauche at the very least. I did not enjoy a lot of it. The earlier material jarred me. I suppose of all the forms, comedy fairs least well with time and satire worst of all. The ins and outs of upper British middle class did not engage me and there was a pettiness and viciousness at times that didn't appeal to me. This was an interim book for me, to be dipped into between novels. At times it engaged me for a stretch. Mostly it was mild torture. Until the later stories. I don't know if it was my sense of Munro's impending date with a sniper's bullet in 1916 France, though the romantic in me senses the author somehow also realising these would be his last pieces. Regardless. The later pieces are wonderful. I thought this book would rate 1. Had I got to spend time with Munro I'd surely rate the gentleman a full 5. I suggest starting with a best of collection. Advice I blithely ignored from a fellow reader. His best stories are among the best of stories.

  • Nisha-Anne
    2019-03-02 05:37

    I haven't finished this, no, and I may never.Because as wonderful as Saki is when you start, it doesn't take long for his rampant misogyny and racism to come through. Yes, I laughed out loud several times. And then I stopped laughing. It was rather intriguing though how consistently he wrote in third person until the abrupt switch to first person and that only happens when he's at the front. And even then, it might only have been that first story? All the more eerie when you realise he died in that war.The rancid flaws aside, I did keep reading the short stories and was even eager to see what he'd do in novel form. So colour me astounded to find I was bored witless by the first novel. And that's where I've stopped and probably will never finish.I suspect I am now going to be forever suspicious of any man who says Saki's his favourite writer. And believe me, if Noel was alive now, we'd have WORDS!

  • Karen D.
    2019-03-16 03:40

    I have only read maybe the first twenty stories, but some of them are hilarious. I read the first set of "Reginald" stories--some of the sarcasm was lost on me because I'm not really up on that time period in British history, but they were fun, nonetheless. I love "The Reticence of Lady Anne," "The Sex That Doesn't Shop," and "Blood-Feud in Toad-Water." I thought the last two were so funny that I read them aloud to my mom and sister-in-law. I'm looking forward to more from Saki!I continue to add favorites to my list as I read more of these stories! Saki's dry wit and understatement are just amazing! Some are laugh-out-loud funny, while others sneak up on you. "The Chaplet" is a great story of a chef driven to distraction by the orchestra in the restaurant.

  • Jessica Draper
    2019-03-02 08:29

    I love "watching" Clovis--he's the ultimate in bright, self-absorbed, cruel, and funny "bad" boys. I definitely want somebody to get the better of him. The other stories range from dull to strange to mildly amusing. It's interesting to realize how badly stories age when they hinge on contemporary events; I'm sure that some of the political satires were much more amusing (or infuriating) back when the issues and personalities they mock were in the newspapers every day. Now, they're either incomprehensible or pathetically outdated. Warning to all authors: Trying to make your work too up-to-date is like leaving the house without sunscreen; it results in premature aging. :)