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.