An NYRB Classics Original
The whimsical, macabre tales of British writer H. H. Munro—better known as Saki—deftly, mercilessly, and hilariously skewer the banality and hypocrisy of polite upper-class English society between the end of Queen Victoria’s reign and the beginning of World War I. Their heroes are clever, amoral children and other enfants terribles who marshal their considerable wit and imagination against the cruelty or fatuousness, bad faith or simple tedium of a decorous and doomed world.
This selection of Saki’s most polished dark gems comes paired with illustrations by the peerless Edward Gorey, whose fine-lined pen-and-ink drawings evoke, in all their fragile elegance and creeping menace, Saki’s Edwardian drawing rooms and garden parties, along with their population of overly delicate ladies and their mischief-making charges, spectral guests and sardonic house pets, flustered authority figures, and all manner of delightfully preposterous imposters.
They dazzle and delight.
Start a Saki story and you will finish it. Finish one and you will start another, and having finished them all you will never forget them. They remain an addiction because they are so much more than funny.
Saki was incapable of writing a dull sentence, but the final lines of his short stories are works of art in themselves…[He] has been called “the most malicious writer of them all,” and while it’s true that an air of cruelty runs through much of his work, the recipients of Saki’s malice always deserve their fates—be they overbearing, child-hating aunts, self-important politicos or tedious club-land bores…. In an age when many artists have forgotten the wise adage that more is less, it is timely to remember a writer who often said more in the 2,000 or so words of a short story than many others have in a lifetime.
—Neil Clark, The Telegraph
It is for the terse brilliance of his short stories that he is remembered 92 years after his death…weird, but in a good way.