Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Reading Saki

The Collected Short Stories of Saki (Hector Hugh Munro)

Oh joy! Just the thought that you’ll get to curl up with your old tattered copy of The Collected Short Stories of Saki at the end of it all makes even the day especially created to torment and test your deepest emotions seem like a party. The hatred, for lack of a stronger word, you feel towards your fellow beings will receive just the right kind of comeuppance at the hands of Reginald and Clovis. Every hypocrisy and idiocracy will be laid bare and branded as such. Oh the tears of joy and laughter! And finally, you’ll bring another day to a close with that big smile on your face.

Ah! The sublime delights of reading Saki. You don’t remember when you first entered this wonderland for now it seems to have been always there; your hidden paradise. The much needed secret valley where you can escape from the trails and tribulations of interacting with human society. No wonder Christopher Morley in 1930 remarked, “There is no greater compliment to be paid to the right kind of friend than to hand him Saki without comment.” And rightly so. You can’t indiscriminately pass around the keys to the gates of paradise.

You may be living in a dump in some corner of this wide world. Your patience almost frayed beyond repair. You’ll have sipped tea in silence with many a people whom you are convinced “would be enormously improved by death”. Then Reginald on the Academy will say, “Every reformation must have its victims. You can't expect the fatted calf to share the enthusiasm of the angels over the prodigal's return.” Or Clovis, The Match Maker, will coolly extrapolate, “All decent people live beyond their incomes nowadays, and those who aren't respectable live beyond other people's. A few gifted individuals manage to do both.” While Conradin will slowly chant, “Sredni Vashtar went forth, His thoughts were red thoughts and his teeth were white, His enemies called for peace, but he brought them death. Sredni Vashtar the Beautiful.” cajoling his wonderful god to do that one thing for him. Thus the gathering dark clouds of gloom and doom will lift and you’ll be safely home.

Sometimes a few words will be enough to redress the balance:
We all know that Prime Ministers are wedded to the truth, but like other married couples they sometimes live apart. (The Unbearable Bassington)
A little inaccuracy sometimes saves a lot of explanations. (The Comments of Moung Ka)
I think she must have been very strictly brought up, she's so desperately anxious to do the wrong thing correctly. (Reginald on Worries)
The people of Crete unfortunately make more history than they can consume locally. (The Jesting of Arlington Stringham)
Whenever a massacre of Armenians is reported from Asia Minor, every one assumes that it has been carried out "under orders" from somewhere or another; no one seems to think that there are people who might like to kill their neighbours now and then. (Filboid Studge, the Story of a Mouse That Helped)

And so, when a new day will dawn you’ll sit and endure the same old circumlocutions about everything and nothing albeit with a secret smile for you know soon Reginald will ask the gathering of incomparable twits, “What did the Caspian Sea?’ thus clearing your secret pathway to happiness.

(Afterthoughts on books: part 8)

No comments: