Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Things we like—Saki.

[[Not the Japanese rice wine (though I like that a lot too)—but the English writer. Influenced many of my favorite writers in English—P.G. Wodehouse, G.K. Chesterton, Graham Greene, and many others. Snippets follow culled from a bio on online-literature.com — I just finished a very fine book of lots of his stories called The Unrest Cure and Other Beastly Tales. Great, ultra-short stories, almost like smart little one-act plays. For a long time I only knew of Saki because of my crossword habit—He being the four-letter answer for the clue, Pen name of H.H. Munro.]]

The name 'Saki' is Farsi for 'cup-bearer', and is thought to be taken from either the ancient Persian poem The Rubayat of Omar Khayyam or possibly from the New World Saki monkey Pitheciidae, both being referred to in his acerbically witty and sometimes macabre stories.

World War I started and while he was officially too old, at age 44 Munro volunteered as a soldier, enlisting in the 22nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. He was offered a commission but refused, saying he could not expect soldiers to obey him if he did not have any experience. He wrote a number of short stories from the trenches and promoted to Lance Sergeant (full Corporal) in September of 1916.

Just a month later, on 16 November 1916, while serving near the French town of Beaumount-Hamel, Hector Hugh Munro was fatally shot by a German sniper's bullet. According to several sources his last words were: "Put that damned cigarette out!" It is alleged that Munro's sister Ethel had destroyed his personal papers.