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Ferrets can be gods

Katherine Rundell, 11 August 2016

Gabriel-Ernest and Other Tales 
by Saki and Quentin Blake.
Alma Classics, 156 pp., £6.99, October 2015, 978 1 84749 592 1
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... cigarette out!’ The soldier was perhaps the wittiest writer Britain had; his other name was Saki. Saki’s short stories take place in a world far from the Somme. It’s a world, like that of Oscar Wilde or P.G. Wodehouse, of silk curtains and silver tea sets, though Saki’s is ...


Salman Rushdie, 4 February 1982

SakiA Life of Hector Hugh Munro 
by A.J. Langguth.
Hamish Hamilton, 366 pp., £12.50, October 1981, 0 241 10678 8
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... Until recently, the only Saki story I had ever read was ‘Filboid Studge, the Story of a Mouse that Helped’. This is the one about the artist Mark Spayley who is wooing the daughter of Duncan Dullamy, ‘the great company inflator’, whose new breakfast food Pipenta ‘could scarcely be called a drug on the market; people bought drugs, but no one bought Pipenta ...

Blowing Cigarette Smoke at Greenfly

E.S. Turner: The Beastliness of Saki, 24 August 2000

The Unrest-Cure and Other Beastly Tales 
by Saki.
Prion, 297 pp., £8.99, May 2000, 9781853753701
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... Will Self would have us believe that a volume of Saki’s stories, chosen from eight miles of second-hand books in a New York store, saved his life. That, he says in his introduction to this collection, should not be confused with changing his life. Faced with a 22-city promotional tour of America for one of his books (‘Not, you might venture, a deathly predicament in and of itself – but how wrong you are’), he was able to set against the ‘terrifying rootlessness’ of the tour the ‘triumphantly rooted character’ of Saki’s stories ...


Marina Warner: Dear Old Khayyám, 9 April 2009

Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám 
by Edward Fitzgerald, edited by Daniel Karlin.
Oxford, 167 pp., £9.99, January 2009, 978 0 19 954297 0
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... A glass-fronted Regency bookcase in a corner of the London Library opposite the lift holds a collection of rare and beautiful editions of Edward FitzGerald’s poem, Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Since its first publication in 1859, it has appeared in every size and shape, giant and toy, on vellum and silk, in fabulous bindings stamped with peacocks’ tails and nightingales’ eyes; it has been printed by masters for tiny private presses, handwritten and illustrated by artists – beginning with the trio of William Morris, Burne-Jones and Charles Fairfax Murray, who helped launch the work after some friends came across it in a remainders box outside Quaritch’s ...

Thus were the British defeated

Colin Munro: ‘Tipu’s Tiger’, 4 January 2018

... Rome, from Mount Aventine, which sold for £30.3 million three years ago. In his biography of Saki, whose real name was Hector Hugh Munro, A.J. Langguth asserted that ‘another of Hector’s military relatives had also perished in India when a tiger ate him.’ It has been suggested that the victim was Saki’s ...


Christopher Hitchens: The Almanach de Gotha, 2 July 1998

... sales talk obscures the true pleasure of the text, which lies in its evocation of the world of Saki and Rudolph Rassendyll and Fouche d’Otrante and Fratting und Pullitz and (my darling among the entries) Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, not by any means to be confused with Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. Saki was especially good ...

Mushroom Cameo

Rosemary Hill: Noël Coward’s Third Act, 29 June 2023

Masquerade: The Lives of Noël Coward 
by Oliver Soden.
Weidenfeld, 634 pp., £30, March, 978 1 4746 1280 7
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... was also the product of an unhappy childhood, but one bent on revenge rather than consolation. Saki published his astringent collection of short stories, The Chronicles of Clovis, in 1911. They were epigrammatic, politically conservative, witty and brutal. Saki was to be a model as well as an influence on Coward, one he ...

Idiot Mambo

Robert Taubman, 16 April 1981

Cities of the Red Night 
by William Burroughs.
Calder, 332 pp., £9.95, March 1981, 0 7145 3784 5
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The Tokyo-Montana Express 
by Richard Brautigan.
Cape, 258 pp., £6.50, April 1981, 0 224 01907 4
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... nightmare. Even incidentally, there’s a broad, unlikely set of references to literature – to Saki and John Fowles and Gatsby’s ‘old sport’. In more detail, a character called Clem Snide does a Sam Spade impression and spends his days checking into Hiltons on a headless-body murder investigation. The case involves drugs, black magic and an Egyptian ...

Holy Terrors

Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 December 1986

‘Elizabeth’: The Author of ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden’ 
by Karen Usborne.
Bodley Head, 341 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 370 30887 5
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Alison Uttley: The Life of a Country Child 
by Denis Judd.
Joseph, 264 pp., £15.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2449 9
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Richmal Crompton: The Woman behind William 
by Mary Cadogan.
Allen and Unwin, 169 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 04 928054 6
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... I think, with the whole great wheeze and jape element in Edwardian literature (W.W. Jacobs, Saki, Kipling). It is interesting that his descendant, Adrian Mole, is more respectable, not less, than the society he lives in. As a Terror, William has been thought to owe something, or a good deal, to Booth Tarkington’s Penrod Schofield. But Richmal, who was ...

If Goofy Could Talk

Frank Cioffi, 6 April 1995

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals 
by Jeffrey Masson and Susan McCarthy.
Cape, 268 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 0 224 03554 1
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The Hidden Life of Dogs 
by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.
Weidenfeld, 148 pp., £12.50, May 1994, 0 297 81461 3
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The Tribe of Tiger 
by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £12.99, October 1994, 0 297 81508 3
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... had succeeded in such an enterprise? We would naturally feel that the sentiments that Saki has the cat Tobermory express could not with equal appropriateness have been imputed to a dog, nor the interior monologue Tolstoy imputes to the hound to a cat, but what can we infer from their appositeness? May we not be in the realm of ‘If Goofy could ...

Wodehouse in America

D.A.N. Jones, 20 May 1982

P.G. Wodehouse: A Literary Biography 
by Benny Green.
Joseph, 256 pp., £8.95, October 1981, 0 907516 04 1
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Wodehouse on Wodehouse: Bring on the girls (with Guy Bolton), Performing Flea, Over Seventy 
Penguin, 655 pp., £2.95, September 1981, 0 14 005245 3Show More
P.G. Wodehouse: An Illustrated Biography 
by Joseph Connolly.
Eel Pie, 160 pp., £3.95, September 1981, 0 906008 44 1
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P.G. Wodehouse: A Centenary Celebration 1881-1981 
edited by James Heineman and Donald Bensen.
Oxford, 197 pp., £40, February 1982, 0 19 520357 7
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The World of P.G. Wodehouse 
by Herbert Warren Wind.
Hutchinson, 256 pp., £5.95, October 1981, 0 09 145670 3
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... for this public-school boy, separated from his parents, suffering under aunts (like Kipling and Saki), put into a bank instead of going to university, bossed around by Germans, British patriots and ‘Jewish philistines’. Probably Benny Green is right to be so cross. Perhaps the whole nasty business of the ‘Nazi-collaborator’ accusation stems from the ...

Portrait of an Artist

Amit Chaudhuri, 19 August 1993

... his life. So they sat in that room, reading poems by Longfellow or Tennyson, or short stories by Saki, Binoy the least interested among them, for his favourite subjects were arithmetic and art, and his favourite pastime, football. But it said something for their affection for this man, who sat studying their answers, that even Binoy had begun to show signs ...


Walter Nash, 18 February 1988

The Panda Hunt 
by Richard Burns.
Cape, 189 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 224 02445 0
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Davy Chadwick 
by James Buchan.
Hamish Hamilton, 145 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 241 12115 9
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Overhead in a Balloon: Stories of Paris 
by Mavis Gallant.
Cape, 196 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 224 02426 4
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Black Idol 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Cape, 157 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 9780224024372
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... content in the uplifting style. Equally, her manner sometimes reminds me of the stories of Saki. This gives me great pleasure; it has been long since I so much relished the savour of writing. At the same time, it raises misgivings, puritanical no doubt, about the appeal of style at the expense of matter. Those who write with such panache, such ...


Peter Campbell, 4 August 1988

Who got Einstein’s office? Eccentricity and Genius at the Institute for Advanced Study 
by Ed Regis.
Simon and Schuster, 316 pp., £12.95, April 1988, 0 671 69923 7
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by James Gleick.
Heinemann, 354 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 9780434295548
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The School of Genius 
by Anthony Storr.
Deutsch, 216 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 233 98010 5
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... or anyone else out of it. His theories are of the soft baggy sort which can contain any evidence. Saki, Kipling and P.G. Wodehouse were all separated from their parents when children. ‘As a result all three suffered subsequently from difficulties in making close relationships and tended to show more affection towards animals or children than they were able ...

Short is sweet

Christopher Ricks, 3 February 1983

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs 
edited by J.A. Simpson.
Oxford, 256 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 19 866131 2
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A World of Proverbs 
by Patricia Houghton.
Blandford, 152 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 0 7137 1114 0
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... There might have been room for Housman’s ‘The pen is mightier than the wrist,’ given that Saki is allowed to say that ‘The English have a proverb, “Conscience makes cowboys of us all,” ’ and that the Sphere is allowed to bend another ‘coward’ proverb upon Noel Coward. Aldous Huxley (‘When Greek meets Greek ...’) here speaks of ‘the ...

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