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Stories, Poems and Humor
Left Book Author Profile
Munro, Hector Hugh (Saki)
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Authored by:
Munro, Hector Hugh (Saki)

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Biography

Saki (December 18, 1870 - November 14, 1916) was the pen name of Hector Hugh Munro, chosen from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam. He was a writer whose witty and outrageous stories satirized the Edwardian social scene in macabre and cruel ways. He made ostensibly misogynist and anti-Semite comments. Some of the less than feminist comments that he made may be due, in part, to his difficulty with women throughout his life. He was often confronted by the more fatuous end of female interaction as he attracted many as friends (as can be seen in one short story about women buying stationery).


He is considered a master of the short story, and is often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy Parker. The story The Open Window may be his most famous, with a closing line ("Romance at short notice was her speciality.") that has entered the lexicon of many writers.


Munro was born in Akyab, Burma as the son of Charles Augustus Munro, an inspector-general for the Burma police when that country, now called Myanmar, was still part of the British Empire. His mother, the former Mary Frances Mercer, died in 1872, killed by a runaway cow. He was brought up in England with his brother and sister by his grandmother and aunts in a straitlaced household, the humour in which he only appreciated in later life. He used the severity of this household in many stories, notably Sredni Vashtar, in which a young boy keeps a pet ferret without his gaurdian's knowledge and the weasel ends up killing the woman who looks after him apparently to the delight of the boy.


Munro was educated at Pencarwick School in Exmouth and the Bedford Grammar School. In 1893 Munro joined the Burma police. Three years later, failing health forced his resignation and return to England, where he started his career as a journalist, writing for newspapers such as the Westminster Gazette, Daily Express, Bystander, Morning Post, and Outlook.


In 1900 Munro's first book appeared, The Rise of the Russian Empire, a historical study modelled upon Edward Gibbon's famous The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It was followed in 1902 by Not-So-Stories, a collection of short stories.


From 1902 to 1908 Munro worked as a foreign correspondent for The Morning Post in the Balkans, Russia and Paris, then settled in London. Many of the stories from this period feature the elegant and effete Reginald and Clovis, who take heartless and cruel delight in the discomfort or downfall of their conventional and pretentious elders. In 1914 his novel When William Came was published, in which he portrayed what might happen if the German emperor conquered England.


At the start of World War I, although officially over age, Munro joined the Army as an ordinary soldier, refusing a commission. He was killed by a sniper in France, near Beaumont-Hamel. Munro was sheltering in a shell crater and his last words, according to several sources, were "Put that damned cigarette out!" After his death his sister Ethel destroyed most of his papers and wrote her own account of their childhood.


Saki's work is in the public domain, and some of it can be found on the Web. Much of it was published posthumously.




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