Saki: Biography, Books & Short Stories

Instructor: Joe Ricker

Joe has a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

Saki or H.H. Munro was known for his sardonic writing on Edwardian society. His prominence is due mostly to his short stories, which present a dark sense of humor.

Saki: Soldier and Satirist

Saki is the pen name of Hector Hugh Munro or H.H. Munro, a British writer known mostly for his short stories. Saki was born in Burma, where he lived until his mother died after a miscarriage during a visit to England, when Saki was around two years old. The loss of her child was attributed to the significant shock she suffered after being charged by a bull, even though she wasn't struck by the animal. As a result, Saki was sent to live with his grandmother and two of his aunts in a very strict, religious household, which is believed to have influenced his writing and some of his characters.

Saki was a prolific short story writer who influenced P.G. Wodehouse.

When his father retired, he returned to England from Burma and took Saki and his siblings with him as he travelled through Europe. Saki made an attempt to follow in his father's footsteps as a member of the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, but returned to England within a year and a half because of frequent illness.

Saki moved to London to become a writer. He was a frequent contributor to many of Britain's newspapers and magazines, where he published short stories and political sketches. As a writer, he served as a foreign correspondent in Russia, the Balkans, and Paris.

His satirical political writing is where his pen name emerged. It is either a reference to a cupbearer in Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a collection of Persian poetry translated by Edward Fitzgerald, or a South American monkey.

Saki is believed to have been a homosexual but managed to keep his sexual orientation a secret. Homosexuality was a crime in Britain at the time, and other famous British authors' careers were ruined because of it--most notably, Oscar Wilde, who was a big influence on Saki.

At 43 years old, and well after his writing career had taken off, Saki volunteered to enlist during World War I. He demanded to be a soldier, and he refused to allow injury or illness keep him from the battlefield. He was killed by a German sniper in November 1916. His famous last words were supposedly:

''Put that bloody cigarette out.''

Big Things with Not So Big Reception

Saki's first book, The Rise of the Russian Empire, a historical study, was unsuccessful. It was also the only book published under his own name. However, while he was writing his first book he'd begun writing short stories, which would ultimately lead to his success as an author. He published his first short story in 1899, just before The Rise of the Russian Empire was released.

Most of Saki's books were collected works of his short stories, plays, and political satires that had originally appeared in other publications. He also wrote novels including The Unbearable Bassington, The Westminster Alice, and When William Came.

Some of his other books are anthologized collections of his short fiction, including Reginald in Russia and The Chronicles of Clovis. Saki was fairly prolific, writing over 100 short stories during his lifetime, which were his most popular works.

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