Saki in Japanese

I’ve been looking into the topic of Saki in translation and recently I got hold of a copy of a selection of the stories in Japanese: サキの思い出: 評伝と短篇. (“The Memories of Saki with his Short Stories”).

Cover of サキの思い出: 評伝と短篇. (“The Memories of Saki with his Short Stories”.) Translated by 花輪涼子, 彩流社, published 2017)
It’s an attractive little hardback, with some of Munro’s own drawings on the cover. These are taken from Ethel Munro’s memoir of her brother (first published in The Square Egg and Other Sketches in 1924). Ethel’s reminiscences actually make up of the bulk of the book (more than half). These remaining pages contain:


  1. Rothsay Reynold’s memoir of Munro (originally the introduction to The Toys of Peace)
  2. Sredni Vashtar
  3. The Saint And The Goblin
  4. The Old Town of Pskoff
  5. Karl-Ludwig’s Window
  6. A Jungle Story
  7. Clovis on the Alleged Romance of Business
  8. A Young Turkish Catastrophe
  9. The Sex That Doesn’t Shop
  10. The Soul of Laploshka
  11. Judkin Of The Parcels
  12. The Mappined Life
  13. The Image of the Lost Soul

Which I think most Saki aficionados will admit contains some rather strange choices.

For me, there’s only one 24-carat classic there: ‘Sredni Vashtar’. ‘The Mappined Life’ and ‘Clovis on the Alleged Romance of Business’ are both good too, but there are (in my opinion) better Clovis stories (for example, ‘The Stampeding of Lady Bastable’, or ‘The Unrest-Cure’, or ‘The Secret Sin Of Septimus Brope’, or…). The others are definitely minor Saki: for example, ‘Judkin Of The Parcels’ and ‘The Image of the Lost Soul’ are both apprentice work, written before Munro really found his vein. Some of them don’t even fit the description of them as “stories”: most noticeably ‘Karl-Ludwig’s Window’, which is a one-act play, but also ‘The Old Town of Pskoff’ and ‘The Sex That Doesn’t Shop’, which are probably best described as pieces of journalism.

And as far as I can see, there’s not a unifying theme (e.g animals) which might have justified putting these tales together in one volume. Perhaps the publishers were aiming at showing as wide a range of Munro’s invention as possible?

Nor is Ethel Munro’s selective biography of her brother essential reading, though I suppose it does the job of a kind of introduction to his work.

All in all, I can’t help feeling that a Japanese reader who bought this would go away at the end with a fairly poor opinion of Munro as a writer.


Munro, Ethel M., et al. サキの思い出: 評伝と短篇. (“The Memories of Saki with his Short Stories”.) Translated by 花輪涼子, 彩流社, published 2017)