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)


Tehran Times announces translation of Saki into Persian

Now there’s a sentence I would never have imagined myself typing. A reader kindly sent me the following link:

might have a go at tracking down the translator. I’ve so many questions about how this project came about, which particular stories were chosen and what Munro’s status or reputation is in Iran. Watch this space, as they say.


(With thanks to Roger Allen)

Saki in Brazilian Portuguese

Following my blog post about a new translation of Saki into Spanish, I was contacted by Francisco Araujo da Costa, who has translated some of Saki’s stories into (Brazilian) Portuguese. It seems that Saki is known not just in Spanish-speaking South America!

Francisco had already translated 20 of the stories in 2008; they were published in a collection entitled Um Gato Indiscreto e Outros Contos. (Readers ought to have no difficult working out who the “Indiscreet Cat” is.)

That edition had gone out of print but has now been reissued with an additional seven stories. It’s already available for Kindle:

A print version should be available soon.

Here’s the description from the website:

O Tigre de Mrs. Packletide e outros contos reúne uma série de histórias que satirizam a sociedade inglesa na primeira década do século XX, permeadas às vezes de um certo teor fantástico ou sobrenatural.
O humor ferino e politicamente incorreto de Saki está representado aqui em vinte e sete contos publicados originalmente em jornais e revistas britânicas e em seis coletâneas: Reginald (1904), Reginald in Russia (1910), The Chronicles of Clovis (1911), Beasts and Super-Beasts (1912), The Toys of Peace (1919) e The Square Egg and Other Sketches (1924).
Vinte dos contos foram publicados originalmente sob o título de Um Gato Indiscreto e Outros Contos (Editora Hedra, 2009). Os sete inéditos são A reticência de Lady Anne, O santo e o duende, A dúzia de frade, Hermann, o Irascível: Uma história do Grande Choro, Laura, O quarto de guardados e O ovo quadrado.

Francisco also translated Saki’s second novel When William Came, and you can find this on Amazon too:

A sample chapter can be read by anyone here:

Finally, a sample of the aforementioned collection, the translation of ‘The Background’, was put online at:

El ala este : Y otros cuentos (Saki in Spanish)

Saki fan, researcher and contributor to this blog Juan Facundo Araujo has published a book of Spanish translations, including (if I understand correctly) the previously untranslated ‘The East Wing’ and ‘A Jungle Story’. He also wrote an introductory essay.

Here’s the Spanish description from Amazon:

“El ala este” incluye tres relatos inéditos en español del genial autor inglés, con un estudio preliminar de Facundo Araujo y una elegante selección anotada de cuentos, ilustrados por los artistas Néstor Martín y Pablo Castillo.

Mapping Saki and Borges

Cover of La reticencia de Lady Anne

The cover of La reticencia de Lady Anne

Is it possible to establish a connection between Saki and Argentina? It is indeed. Saki mentions Argentina on two occasions. In ‘The Way to the Dairy’ we find: “The Brimley Bomefields had a collective attack of nervous prostration on the day when she sold out a quantity of shares in Argentine rails”, and then in ‘Fur’ we also find: “Well, old Bertram Kneyght is over in England just now from the Argentine”.

Furthermore, the link between Saki and Borges is even more fascinating. They never physically met each other: Saki died tragically in 1916 and Borges was born in 1899. Different ages, different places. Yet a certain “relationship” between these two authors does reveal itself as true.

Intellectually, Borges grew up in his father’s personal library, a collection full of English books. Moreover, Borges inherited his father’s literary idols such as Swinburne, Keats, Spencer and Shelley. Guillermo Borges translated Edward FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát into Spanish and his version of the famous Persian poem was finally published in Proa, a literary magazine established by his son and Ricardo Güiraldes, in the year 1924. Later on, Borges wrote a poem about Omar Khayyám’s masterpiece. As we know, Saki took his peculiar penname from the Rubáiyát stanzas. In his preface to ‘The Reticence of Lady Anne’, Borges confirms this conjecture: “His name, Munro, belongs to an ancient Scottish family; his penname, Saki, comes from the Rubáiyát (this word in Persian means cupbearer)”.1

Saki and Borges were cosmopolitans. About Saki’s cosmopolitanism, we should recall A.A. Milne’s words: “A strange creature, this Saki, to us many others who were trying to do it too. For we were so domestic, he so terrifyingly cosmopolitan”.2 During his youth, Saki travelled around Europe with his father and siblings. In nineteenth-century Victorian England, it was common for upper-class young adults like Saki, who had recently finished grammar school, to travel to the Continent, visiting museums, recreational resorts and art galleries in France, Germany and Switzerland.  This “educational trip” allowed Hector Munro to absorb entirely the historical, cultural and social Mitteleuropa atmosphere. As Charles Gillen declares: “This tour, too, helped to make Munro the true cosmopolitan”.3 In his adulthood, Saki also discovered Russia and the Balkans as a journalist working for The Morning Post. Yet Saki always returned to London. England was his shelter, far from the madding crowd. Borges asserts:

His life was a cosmopolitan one, but all his work (with the exception of one short story that we will mention later on)4 happens in England, in that England of his melancholic childhood. He never got over that period, whose irreparable misfortune was his literary matter. There is nothing special about this fact; unhappiness is, as they said, one of the elements of poetry. That England he suffered and took advantage of, was that of the Victorian middle class, ruled by boredom, organisation and by the eternal repetition of certain habits. Munro satirised that society with a quintessentially English dry humour.

In 1914, just before the Great War began, Borges and his family moved to Europe because his father’s eyesight had started to fail (Borges would inherit his father’s congenital blindness). In Geneva, a famous eye doctor treated Guillermo Borges while his son “Georgie” went to school. This tour to Europe was also considered essential for an Argentinian upper-class young adult: a chance to gain first-hand acquaintance with the Western culture. Besides, in those days the Argentine peso was strong.

Apparently, Borges was unhappy in Geneva because he couldn’t get used to the misty, damp and cold weather. He summarises his gloomy experience there: “I spent the war years in Geneva; [it was] a no-exit time, tight, made of drizzle, which I’ll always remember with some hatred”.

Later on, the Argentine fiction author Adolfo Bioy Casares (a very close friend of Jorge Luis Borges) became Saki’s first Spanish translator in 1940 with his version of ‘Sredni Vashtar’. It was published by Sur, one of the most important literary magazines in Buenos Aires during the 20th century. Borges and Bioy Casares were fascinated by this tale. Both certainly enjoyed speculative as well supernatural fiction. Borges declares particularly about ‘Sredni Vashtar’: “If we have to choose between two short stories of our anthology (and we are certainly not compelled to that duality), we would focus on ‘Sredni Vashtar’ and ‘The Interlopers’. The first one, as in every good story, is ambiguous: We can assume that Sredni Vashtar was really a god and that the unfortunate child sensed it, but the hypothesis that the child’s cult made a divinity from the ferret is also reasonable, nor is it prohibited to think that the force of the animal came from the child that might have really been the god and didn’t know it. It is fine that the ferret goes  back to the unknown from where it came; not less admirable is the disproportion between the happiness of the freed child and the trivial fact of making toast”.

Bioy Casares, Ocampo y Borges

Adolfo Bioy Casares, Victoria Ocampo (founder of ‘Sur’) and Jorge Luis Borges in 1935.
Photo credit: File:Bioy_Casares,_Ocampo_y_Borges.jpg

The only “discrepancy” between Borges and Saki was another British author: George Bernard Shaw. Borges esteemed him intensely and listed Shaw as one of his four favorite authors (the others were Cervantes, Chesterton and Emerson). Borges once declared drastically, “Shaw seems the only author I’ve read”. On the other hand, Saki couldn’t bear Shaw at all. In fact, he parodied him as “Sherard Blaw” in The Unbearable Bassington. In addition, the title of his book Beasts and Super-Beasts is just a mere satire of Shaw’s four-act drama Men and Super-Men. Bernard Shaw’s socialism and popularity were so unbearable for Hector Munro…

In conclusion, Saki and Borges were both remarkable and irreplaceable storytellers with a unique sense of irony. Borges was also a very fine reader and he explored British literature with a singular mastery. Definitively, Saki was part of his vast group of literary idols.

  1. ‘La Reticencia de Lady Anne’ [1986] was part of Jorge Luis Borges’s famous anthology: “La Biblioteca de Babel” or The Library of Babel. This anthology included many Borges’s preferred authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, Gustav Meyrink, Franz Kafka, Rudyard Kipling, Herman Melville, Giovanni Papini, Edgar Allan Poe, León Bloy, Leopoldo Lugones, G.K. Chesterton, Oscar Wilde, etc. This preface in particular was published by Siruela Ediciones (Madrid, Spain).
  2. A. A. Milne, introduction to The Chronicles of Clovis. Online at
  3. H.H. Munro (Saki), Twayne’s English Authors Series (TEAS) #102 (Boston, 1969).
  4. Borges is referring to his own selection of stories rather than to Munro’s entire oeuvre.

This is a guest blog post by Juan Facundo Araujo of the Universidad de Buenos Aires. He has both published and given presentations on various aspects of Saki. His current research is into the depiction of suffragettes in Munro’s work. My thanks to him for agreeing to write something for this blog about Saki and Latin America.