Saki is the pen name of Hector Hugh Munro. Born in 1870, he was a British writer renowned for his sharp-witted satirization of Edwardian society in several humorous stories. He also wrote a number of excellent, often vicious macabre tales. My favorite Saki tales are: “Gabriel-Ernest”, “Sredni Vashtar”, “The Open Window” and “Penance”.
1. “Gabriel-Ernest” (1909) – A man encounters a boy on his property who claims he lives in the wild. When the man asks where he sleeps and what he eats, he receives disturbing answers and soon begins to realize he’s dealing with something more dangerous than a mere boy. The cryptic things the boy says set a diabolical tone for the story.
2. “Sredni Vashtar” (1911) – A sickly young boy grows to hate his domineering guardian, leading him to imagine a religion of his own devising that’s centered around a pet ferret named Sredni Vashtar as it’s dark god. This is a powerful and dark story.
3. “Laura” (1914) – The irreverent comments Laura makes shortly before her death causes her friend to think she’s returned in a different form to torment her relatives in this tale of dark humor.
4. “The Music On The Hill” (1911) – A woman comes to regret disregarding her husband’s claim that the god Pan actually exists while staying at his country estate.
5. “The Open Window” (1911) – Upon his doctor’s orders, a man travels to a quiet town to rest his frazzled nerves. While introducing himself at the house of a relative’s friend, the young girl there warns him that her aunt believes her husband, son and their dog will return home that evening even though they vanished on a hunting trip several years previous.
6. “Tobermory” (1911) – The well-to-do members of a diner party decide to take drastic measures after they are introduced to Tobermory, the first cat that has learned how to speak in this humorous, weird tale.
7. “The Feast of Nemesis” (1914) – A women contemplates the need for a new holiday created to get even with those who wronged you throughout the year, complete with insidious ways to torment each person.
8. “Penance” (1923) – After a farmer kills the beloved cat of his three young neighbors, he tries to make amends, but their hatred continues to grow. Despite there being nothing implicitly supernatural in this tale, it remains unsettling, as the ever-watchful children sit on the wall separating their properties, glaring at the farmer while plotting their revenge. This is a superbly vicious story.
9. “The Storyteller” (1957) – A bachelor on a train tells some precocious little girls a story to keep them quiet awhile which is much darker than the fluffy one their Aunt tried on them.
Article by Matt Cowan