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Saki

Hector Hugh Munro (Saki).

Hector Hugh Munro (December 18, 1870 – November 14, 1916), better known by the pseudonym Saki and also as H.H. Munro, was a popular British writer of satirical tales and political sketches.

Although he also wrote some longer works, Saki is best known for his short stories which parody the social conventions of the Edwardian English upper class. Many of his stories revolve around mischievous antiheros and their practical jokes, while others feature oppressed children unleashing their revenge on adults.

Saki is considered to be one of the greatest short story writers along with O. Henry and Anton Chekhov. His stories are often anthologized and adapted to other media.

Biography

Hector Hugh Munro was born on December 18, 1870, to Charles Augustus Munro and his wife Mary Frances Mercer in Akyab, Burma (Myanmar), where Charles was an Inspector General of Police. Hector was the youngest of three children. Mary died when Hector was two years old, and all three children were sent to Devon, England, to be raised by their grandmother and two very strict aunts. Due to poor health, Hector was initially educated at home by his sister's tutors. He then attended boarding schools where he received a typical upper-class education for two years. In 1888, Charles resigned his commission and decided to take the children to Europe to further their education. The family returned to England two years later.

At age 23, Munro obtained, with his father's help, a position with the military police in Burma. Attacks of malaria, however, forced him to return to England a year later. After convalescence, Munro moved to London in 1896 to begin his career as a writer. While researching to write a serious historical work, Munro met a popular political cartoonist Carruthers Gould and joined the Westminster Gazette as a political sketch writer using the penname of Saki.[1]

Munro's first book, the historical work The Rise of the Russian Empire, was published under his own name in 1900. The book was only moderately successful and did not receive the academic attention Munro had hoped for. His satirical sketches in the Gazette, however, quickly became very popular. One series of satires based on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (with illustrations by Gould after Tenniel's originals), in which Alice encounters contemporary political figures, was collected in 1902 as The Westminster Alice. Munro wrote additional series of political sketches as well as short stories satirizing British society and culture for the Gazette.

In 1902, Munro became the Balkan correspondent for the Morning Post, a conservative London newspaper. He also covered Russia and Paris for the paper before returning to London following his father's death in 1908. He continued to publish short stories in various papers and magazines working as a freelance writer. Reginald, the collection of his short stories originally published in the Westminster Gazette, was published in 1904. Munro's stories were so popular that three more collections were published in the next ten years; Reginald in Russia and Other Sketches (1910), The Chronicles of Clovis (1911), and Beasts and Super-Beasts (1914). He also wrote two novels, The Unbearable Bassington (1912) and When William Came (1913).

At the start of World War I, Munro enlisted despite being overage. He refused an officer's commission and safer posts and fought on the front line in France. He was killed in action on November 14, 1916. Two more collections of his stories and sketches were published posthumously, including some later pieces written in the trenches in France. A play The Watched Pot, co-written with Charles Maude, was also published posthumously.

Selected works

Collections

  • Reginald (1904)
  • Reginald in Russia and Other Sketches (1910)
  • The Chronicles of Clovis (1911)
  • Beasts and Super-Beasts (1914)
  • The Toys of Peace and Other Papers (1919)
  • The Square Egg and Other Sketches (1924)

Short stories

Footnotes

  1. According to his sister Ethel, H.H. Munro took the penname Saki from the cupbearer in The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, a collection of Persian poems translated by Edward FitzGerald. It is also suspected that Munro was familiar with the South American Saki monkeys.

External links

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