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Saki (Hector Hugh Munro, 1870–1916)
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English short story writer and novelist Saki is best known today as a master of the wellcrafted story. He modeled his style on that of Oscar Wilde, and was, along with Wilde, Ronald Firbank, and Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo), an early practitioner of the camp flamboyance often associated with gay culture. The stories in Reginald (1904) exemplify Saki’s epigrammatic style but lack the careful attention to plot that is now seen as one of his trade-marks; these stories consist largely of witty, aimless dialogues between the twenty-two-year-old Reginald and an unnamed admirer called “the Other.” After a stint as a foreign correspondent (1904-1909), Saki took up fiction again but dispensed with the dialogue form; instead, he began to hone his skill for the story line with an unexpected twist, developing the breathtaking plot as the narrative analog of the stunningly brilliant epigram. Reginald in Russia (1910) was quickly followed by The Chronicles of Clovis (1911), dedicated “to the lynx kitten, with his reluctantly given consent.” This collection introduced Clovis Sangrail, the complacent, young, urbane dandy who would continue to silence philistines and embarrass slow-witted conformists in many of the stories Saki published over the next few years. During that period, he also wrote two novels-The Unbearable Bassington (1912), which describes the gloomy fate of one of his narcissistic heroes, and When William Came (1913), about an imaginary invasion of England by Germany. At the outbreak of World War I, Saki enlisted and returned to journalism, writing editorials in which he disparaged the beautiful, petulant boys who had been the heroes of his short stories. He was killed in combat in 1916.