Saki (Hector Hugh Munro), 1870 - 1916

portrait of Saki (Hector Hugh Munro)
Photo by E.O. Hopp

Born: 18 December 1870, Akyab, Burma (Myanmar)
Died: 13 November 1916, Beaumont-Hamel, France

Charles Munro was an inspector-general for the British Imperial police in Burma when Hector was born. Two years later Hector's mother, on a visit to England, was run down by a charging cow and miscarried, complications led to her death. The children were then sent to England to be raised by a grandmother and two aunts who young Hector despised. He attended Pendarwick School at Exmouth and Bedford Grammar School, and traveled with his sister and father after the latter's retirement. In 1893 he also went to Burma to join the Imperial Police, malaria forced his retirement two years later and he took up journalism, writing for several London papers. He wrote a scholarly history of the Russian Empire, from 1902 to 1908 he was a foreign correspondent for The Morning Post in Eastern Europe (the Balkans, Warsaw, Russia) and Paris but had also started writing his witty and oft macabre short stories under the name Saki, work that has been compared to O. Henry and Dorothy Parker, with perhaps a hint of Kipling. At 43, well over the official age for army service, he enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers as a soldier, refusing a commission. He took shelter in a shell crater, told one of his company to put out his cigarette, and was shot by a German sniper. He never married and was probably homosexual but managed to keep it private. Many of Saki's stories contrast the effete, hypocritical life of Edwardian England with the stark realities of nature; all are currently in the public domain and most are available online.

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