17.11.06

What did the Caspian Sea?


Imagine an Edwardian England suspended in time, where it´s always five o´clock, and the butler seems permanently poised to bring the tea tray out into the lawn. Imagine the bread-and-butter, the cucumber sandwiches, the fruit cake, the scones. Imagine a bunch of corseted ladies in lace, gentlemen with stiff shirtfronts, children in velvet knickers, spaniels at their heels.

Now imagine a tiger has been let loose among them.

That, more or less, is what Saki stories are like. If P.G.Wodehouse is a bubbly gin and tonic, Saki is a very dry martini. One story will exhilarate, two will make your head swim, and by the third you´ll be tottering a little from all the epigrams. He is best read in bed, one or two stories at a time, never more.

Many of them feature food, which is why I bring him up. Most of the time the Cushatt-Prinklies and Van Tanhs are delivering witty one-liners as they drink consommé, spoon caviar, or top brown bread and butter with whitebait. Murderous cooks are aided and abetted, disrespectful diners´ heads are plunged into hot soup and peaches are exchanged as tokens of affection. Tea , Filboid Studge, The Blind Spot, The Byzantine Omelette, The Phantom Luncheon, A Bread and Butter Miss, all these, and many more, have food as a central theme.

He died ninety years ago yesterday, a private soldier in the British Army during World War I. After spending a lifetime writing about waspy duchesses and effette young men, it was a very unlikely end. He was only 44.

Which is very sad, but let´s not be gloomy. Genius lives forever, after all, and one unquestionably good thing about it is that his works are in the public domain, and so you can read them  here. That has all the stories. This has only the Clovis stories, but is easier to navigate, and Clovis is the best, anyway, so start with them.

I recommend him thoroughly. They say there is no better compliment to be paid to the right kind of friends than to hand them Saki without comment.

7 comentarios:

ann dijo...

have you ever heard the joke about martinis and a woman's bosom? a dirty old man told this to me when i was a cocktail waitress and he was looking down my shirt as i served him his very dry gin martini.
to quote: why are martinis and women's breasts alike? because one is never enough, two is just right, and three's always too many!

I'll have to look for some Saki at the Strand this weekend. Thanks for the recommendation!

Stephanie dijo...

divine illustration ... I bet your little butterfly-catching boy gets to see his parents once a day and they sometimes forget his name.

Tanna dijo...

Your writing and illustration are so perfect together. My son introduced me to Saki a few years back - most enjoyable reading - and he started me with the Clovis stories. I'm glad to know they're on line.

Monkey Gland dijo...

You needn't tell me that a man who doesn't love oysters and asparagus and good wines has got a soul, or a stomach either. He's simply got the instinct for being unhappy highly developed.

Carmen Muguiro dijo...

Que apasionante. Jamás oí hablar de Saki. Yá verás cuando lo lea mi madre que se ha hecho "lobstersquad adicta".
En lo que a mí respecta, gracias a tí acabo de descubrir lo de los libros on-line. Estoy perdida.

lobstersquad dijo...

Ann: I love that martini joke, despite myself! So jealous about your going to Strand, just like that, it´s my dream shop.
Stephanie: I bet the little boy calls his parents sir and madam, no question.
Tanna: Clovis is always the starting point, though I love Reginald, too.
Monkey Gland: I almost wrote that quote, but then thought it would just make all the rest of the post look bad... he´s the best.
Carmen: ya verás, es lo más de lo más. te va a encantar.

Anónimo dijo...

Hi! I love your blog with its lovely illustrations and thought I'd finally leave a comment. I love Saki's short stories and got a bit of a thrill when I saw a blue plaque in London for Hector Hugh Munro (aka Saki) last year!

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