Saki is the literary equivalent of a citrus sorbet on a scorching hot day!
If you feel dismal or low spirited for whatever reason, then a 10 minute excursion into Saki’s surreal, sometimes heartless world of dangerous shrubberies, vengeful children and louche nephews, should raise your spirits!
His writing is a gift because it shines with an intelligence neither ponderous nor worthy. Saki writes sometimes like a reformed Mephistopheles: reformed because Saki is not evil, but neither is he good, as his capacity for trust where human nature is concerned, is markedly compromised!
When Saki is keen (and he usually is) then he is so astute that even Wilde must check his satirical crown in heaven.
This is an extract from one of Saki’s best tales, The Open Window. Ironically it is about storytelling and plays with the relationship between the different writers and readers within and without the tale.
A sensitive young man, who has escaped to the countryside to calm his ‘nerves,’ finds that young girls on the brink of woman hood have rather more imagination than his own claustrophobic ‘sensitivity’ can reckon with. He flees the story without understanding his duped role at all!
”You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon,” said the niece, indicating a large French window that opened on to a lawn.
“It is quite warm for the time of the year,” said Framton; “but has that window got anything to do with the tragedy?”
“Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers went off for their day’s shooting. They never came back. In crossing the moor to their favourite snipe-shooting ground they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog. It had been that dreadful wet summer, you know, and places that were safe in other years gave way suddenly without warning. Their bodies were never recovered. That was the dreadful part of it.” Here the child’s voice lost its self-possessed note and became falteringly human. “Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back someday, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept open every evening till it is quite dusk. Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing ‘Bertie, why do you bound?’ as he always did to tease her, because she said it got on her nerves. Do you know, sometimes on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that they will all walk in through that window – “
She broke off with a little shudder. It was a relief to Framton when the aunt bustled into the room with a whirl of apologies for being late in making her appearance.
“I hope Vera has been amusing you?” she said.
“She has been very interesting,” said Framton.
“I hope you don’t mind the open window,” said Mrs. Sappleton briskly; “my husband and brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way. They’ve been out for snipe in the marshes today, so they’ll make a fine mess over my poor carpets. So like you menfolk, isn’t it?
How to write a good essay!
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