Saki - Classic or Dud?

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I checked the archive and there was one (with not enough comment) about the Reginald stories, but nothing about him entirely. And even if it has been done before, so what? Saki deserves more than one thread! (This was inspired by the revival of the Firbank thread, of course - they always remind me of each other)

So is Saki a humerous classic with a great sense of the surreal and magical? Or an unfunny British toff who is obsessed with his aunts?

Obviously he's so much a classic it hurts...

Kevin Gilchrist (Mr Fusion), Monday, 16 August 2004 01:09 (sixteen years ago) link

Damn straight. Total classic. Also, PG Wodehouse.

DougD, Monday, 16 August 2004 03:08 (sixteen years ago) link

tonight when I couldn't sleep cos of mosquitos I took some saki.

erik, Monday, 16 August 2004 09:56 (sixteen years ago) link

last night that is...

erik, Monday, 16 August 2004 10:05 (sixteen years ago) link

His short stories = Classic, definitely, but not as perfect as Wodehouse.

Hector Hugo himself = Dud, by all accounts a Nazi, misogynist and generally nasty character.

Cathy (Cathy), Monday, 16 August 2004 10:45 (sixteen years ago) link

they NEVER remind of each other!

erik, Monday, 16 August 2004 11:13 (sixteen years ago) link

who isn't a nazi, though, really?

RJG (RJG), Monday, 16 August 2004 11:15 (sixteen years ago) link

I mean wasn't.

RJG (RJG), Monday, 16 August 2004 11:15 (sixteen years ago) link

P G Wodehouse.

Cathy (Cathy), Monday, 16 August 2004 11:17 (sixteen years ago) link

saki puts one step further than wodehouse perhaps as he adds some real dark evil and viciousness to the characters. reading some stories late last night I was stuck by how nasty (NAZI??) everybody behaved to each other in his stories.

erik, Monday, 16 August 2004 11:20 (sixteen years ago) link

I don't mind nastiness in fictional characters, if it's funny.

Cathy (Cathy), Monday, 16 August 2004 11:21 (sixteen years ago) link

then some early saki stories are merely displays of people being crypto-nazi to each other, without any attempt at a plot.

erik, Monday, 16 August 2004 11:39 (sixteen years ago) link

Which ones? What does crypto-nazi mean anyway?

Cathy (Cathy), Monday, 16 August 2004 11:41 (sixteen years ago) link

I mean the reginald stories are more brilliant conversation pieces.

saki reminds me more of roald dahl (the story with the revengeful fret) spiced with some homo-eroticism (the naked teen-wolf in the forest)then wodehouse/firbank et al.

erik, Monday, 16 August 2004 11:44 (sixteen years ago) link

The Interpolation Of Dreams
Eliot was an anti-Semite;
Schopenhauer was one too;
Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner,
Santayana, Jean Cocteau,

Henry Ford, Will Shakespeare also,
Solzhenitsyn, Pound and Kant,
Dostoyevsky, Mencken, Jung,
Celine, and Henri Montherlant;

Philip Larkin, Paul de Man,
Hemingway and Wyndham Lewis,
Nietzche, Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer,
H. G. Wells (and Lindburgh too was);

Andre Gide, and Simone Weil,
Heidegger; Drieu La Rochelle,
Leni Reifenstahl; Knut Hamsun;
Gore Vidal; Colette as well;

Henry James and Bobby Fischer,
Henry Adams, Gorbachev,
Chomsky, Chekhov, Newton, Spengler,
Paul, Peter, and Piuses I through XII.

Rachel Rabinovitch

cºzen (Cozen), Monday, 16 August 2004 11:48 (sixteen years ago) link

I'm reading a short stories collection of his now - I read a different collection (with much overlap) some years ago which I loved, but this one has an introduction where it talks about his misogynist tendencies and now I can't help but notice a lot of examples of this. That aside, the stories are usually clever and hilarious. I like most of the nasty behaviour too, it's Victorian fairy tale-ish.

Poppy (poppy), Monday, 16 August 2004 13:59 (sixteen years ago) link

Bah. Thought these was a bouze thread. Don't mind me etc.

Dave B (daveb), Monday, 16 August 2004 14:13 (sixteen years ago) link

I got The Complete Saki form Penguin.

erik, Tuesday, 17 August 2004 10:27 (sixteen years ago) link

There appears to be quite a lot available to download from Project Gutenberg. Hurrah reading matter for Liz when without work to do.

Liz :x (Liz :x), Tuesday, 17 August 2004 10:33 (sixteen years ago) link

There's a "Best Of Saki" from Penguin Classics, too. Not "The Best Short Stories" or "The Greatest Works" or "Selected Stories" or anything, it's really called "The Best Of Saki". That's the only time I've seen that sort of title fer classic literature.

Daniel_Rf (Daniel_Rf), Tuesday, 17 August 2004 11:22 (sixteen years ago) link

Jane Austen, "Super Hits"

Daniel_Rf (Daniel_Rf), Tuesday, 17 August 2004 11:34 (sixteen years ago) link

Anthony Trollope, "Twenty Golden Greats"

Liz :x (Liz :x), Tuesday, 17 August 2004 12:36 (sixteen years ago) link

The Best Ivy Compton-Burnett Anthology In the World ... EVER!

Dadaismus (Dada), Tuesday, 17 August 2004 12:55 (sixteen years ago) link

James Joyce - Now That's What I Call Stream-of-Consciousness, Volume 47

Dadaismus (Dada), Tuesday, 17 August 2004 12:58 (sixteen years ago) link

Ronald Firbank - The Immaculate Collection

erik, Tuesday, 17 August 2004 13:04 (sixteen years ago) link

Cathy, what do you mean by Munro being a Nazi?

it makes reading the Unrest-cure even more sinister:

"But what is this mystery all about?...And isn't the Bishop going to have tea?"
"The Bishop is out for blood, not tea."
"Blood?" gasped Huddle...
"Tonight is going to be a great night in the history of Christendom," said Clovis, "We are going to massacre every Jew in the neighborhood."
"To massacre the Jews!"said Huddle indignantly. "Do you mean to tell me there's a general rising against them?"
"No it's the Bishops own idea. He's in there arranging all the details now."

erik, Tuesday, 17 August 2004 14:18 (sixteen years ago) link

Where's that passage from? How disturbing...I was basing my claim that he was a Nazi only on what I've read about him, which isn't much. Most of the biographies I can fing on the internet call him a Nazi sympathiser or anti-Semite. I don't remember coming across anything anti-Semitic in the short stories, but it's about three years since I read most of the one's I've read. I will re-read, tonight.

Cathy (Cathy), Tuesday, 17 August 2004 16:19 (sixteen years ago) link

antsemite perhaps, but how can he seriously be called a Nazi when he died in the FIRST worldwar?

the unrest-cure is probably in every saki anthology as it is one of his classic stories, where clovis takes on one of his most elobarate practical jokes.

erik, Tuesday, 17 August 2004 16:59 (sixteen years ago) link

shredni vashtar the beautiful

erik, Tuesday, 17 August 2004 18:50 (sixteen years ago) link

i love saki, lines from esme still give me the giggles whenever i reread them. some free saki online here

H (Heruy), Tuesday, 17 August 2004 21:07 (sixteen years ago) link

six months pass...
scored the complete saki in one volume today at the thrift store for 50 cents! can't wait to dig in. i've only read a dozen stories at best. i'm curious about the plays and novels. never read anything that long by him.

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 24 February 2005 02:44 (sixteen years ago) link

So much love. I didn't know there were NOVELS though!!

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Thursday, 24 February 2005 03:13 (sixteen years ago) link

Yes, one called The Unbearable Bassington. One called When William Came and a rather strange-looking (and very short too. Unfinished, maybe?) thing called The Westminster Alice. Yeah, I don't know what the story is with that last one. And three plays: The Death-Trap, Karl-Ludwig's Widow, and The Watched Pot. It's nearly a 1000 pages of Saki. Maybe too much for me to gulp at once, but I will do my best.

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 24 February 2005 04:18 (sixteen years ago) link

If memory serves me correctly the novels sadly aren't as much cop as the short stories; the impact is somewhat diluted over the longer form. Scott: the Westminster Alice was written as a satire on the then government, which unless you are fantastically up to date on British cabinet ministers of the late nineteenth century would account for the incomprehensibility.

God I love the short stories though.

Matt (Matt), Thursday, 24 February 2005 07:35 (sixteen years ago) link

six years pass...

I found my Penguin Collected in the closet and have read nine of the stories at a fast clip -- the first writer who seduced me, and tried to imitate.

Anakin Ska Walker (AKA Skarth Vader) (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 5 October 2011 01:31 (nine years ago) link

The comparisons at the start of this thread are weird. In mood and style, Firbank, Saki and Wodehouse don't have much to do with each other. Thread title is clearly a rhetorical question.

bamcquern, Wednesday, 5 October 2011 03:18 (nine years ago) link

I was thinking more about this and I realized that British society is to Firbank what Martians are to Edgar Rice Burroughs.

bamcquern, Wednesday, 5 October 2011 06:40 (nine years ago) link

Yeah, not sure what I meant by the opening post - I don't even remember having read any Firbank! Saki's still classic, of course.

trapdoor fucking spiders (dowd), Wednesday, 5 October 2011 06:57 (nine years ago) link

Far be it from me to judge this guy on the basis of one single story, but Hermann The Irascible - The Story Of The Great Weep - ugh. What a dick.

antiautodefenestrationism (ledge), Wednesday, 5 October 2011 08:52 (nine years ago) link

Saki had the uncanny knack of presenting his misanthropy with a halo of irrepressible charm. The misanthropy and disgust is there in most of the tales, but at the story's end the charm is all you can recall. This is strangely typical of most humorists. The sunny disposition of a Wodehouse is the exception and not the rule.

As for his anti-semitism, it was a general defect of his time and place, and no doubt it chimed well with his overall distaste for humanity. It's not really foregiveable, but its relevance to his art is practically non-existant.

Aimless, Wednesday, 5 October 2011 15:33 (nine years ago) link

seven years pass...

Slalom round a Munro (4)

Leaghaidh am brón an t-anam bochd (dowd), Monday, 24 December 2018 19:10 (two years ago) link

In the early eighties, in a Cheshire secondary school, we had an English teacher called Tyrone, who I remember as inspiring. He encouraged people to read Saki. Tyrone didn't teach there for long (I've a vague memory that he just "disappeared" - I suspect related to his sexuality) but he's one of those teachers of whom I think "He was good".

A few years later, I had an English teacher (well, he was Irish) who loved Heaney and Hughes. As the token Northerner in a Hampshire school by this point, I was often made to read their poems out loud despite my aversion to public speaking.

I'd happily buy both of them a pint, to say thanks. There's a small chance both are alive.

djh, Wednesday, 26 December 2018 20:51 (two years ago) link

so Cozen's poem upthread, attributed to Rachel Rabinovitch, is actually by Cozen, no?

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Wednesday, 26 December 2018 22:19 (two years ago) link

Saki should be taken daily like vitamins.

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 26 December 2018 22:33 (two years ago) link

I read a biography of Saki a few years ago, he wasn't a raving proto-Nazi anti-semite as posited upthread, more just an old school Tory. His biography did read almost like a caricature of a certain type of English writer - love-starved Victorian childhood, mother died young and brought up by maiden aunts (surprise surprise), deeply closeted yet also a reactionary, seemed to have a death wish and enlisted in WW1 even though he was too old to do so, and went out of his way to put himself in dangerous situations at the front. T.E Lawrence and a half a dozen other closed writers from the period come to mind...

Zelda Zonk, Wednesday, 26 December 2018 23:12 (two years ago) link

closed = closeted, thanks autocorrect

Zelda Zonk, Wednesday, 26 December 2018 23:13 (two years ago) link

two years pass...

Reading NYRB’s selected with Gorey illustrations which I’ve had for a few years now and not gotten to, all quite droll and impeccable style of course but Sredni Vashtar is a story, damn.

Canon in Deez (silby), Tuesday, 23 February 2021 06:04 (one week ago) link

There's a video (or maybe just audio) somewhere of it being read out loud by Tom Baker, brilliantly of course. I've been looking for the link to post it, but it seems to have been taken down.

Lily Dale, Tuesday, 23 February 2021 07:10 (one week ago) link

That whole Chronicles of Clovis is masterful misanthropy (some of which borders on misogyny tbf) - a Selected seems the way to go. And with Gorey illustrations! Perfect soulmates

imago, Tuesday, 23 February 2021 09:39 (one week ago) link

'borders on' is very generous.

ledge, Tuesday, 23 February 2021 09:55 (one week ago) link

Sredni Vashtar is a story, damn.


So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 23 February 2021 10:29 (one week ago) link

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