Sunday, September 2, 2012

Acidic Wit: Stories by Saki (H H Munroe)

Saki is one writer who brings back memories of High School English classes- memories of several teachers with their different styles and methodologies, different (mis)pronunciations, mannerisms and different levels of interest they evoke. Saki or H. H. Munro was a regular story writer featuring every year in our English text books. Also if we take any anthology of English short stories, one story by him is a must. So when I saw a collection of Complete Short Stories I grabbed it eagerly and devoured it. 

The book contains stories from five of his collections. The first two Reginald and Reginald In Russia, features his famous character Reginald. He is a young guy, outspoken and infatuated with his own good looks. Theme of all these stories is his unfruitful and embarrassing (for others around him) social interactions. Third collection, The Chronicles of Clovis features Clovis Sangrail, another clever youngster always making elaborate practical jokes much to the discomfort of other civilized beings of society around him. The Beasts and Super Beasts is a collection that involves stories concerning nature. Other two collections – The Toys of Peace and The Square Egg are his early works and stories published posthumously. The stories are readable though comes nowhere near stories from other collections.

Just like many other story writers of his time, the stories by Saki are predominantly humorous. He satirizes the social structure of his times. What makes his stories different from his contemporaries is his scant regard to political correctness and absence of any contempt to his characters. Most of thestories are of pranks played by someone onan unsuspecting victim and in most of the cases the fun causes some sort of permanent damage tothe victim. We never see any poetic justice happening in them. The satire is acidic. Saki makes fun of the pompous upper class, aspiring middle class and struggling lower class alike. These stories thus make a striking social commentary of his times and also to some extent, of ours.

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