09/02/2013 by Siddiqui Fayesal
Book: The Open Window
Author: Saki (Hector Hugh Munro)
Saki. The name struck me as odd. It just didn’t sound English, or American for that matter, at all. I later learnt that it was not. Saki, the pen name of Hector Hugh Munro, is based on a character of a play. Wikipedia says,
The name Saki may be a reference to the cup-bearer in the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam. This is stated as fact by Emlyn Williams in his 1978 introduction to a Saki anthology.
Saki is known for his witty language and smart short stories which make the reader smirk in delight and smile in private. The tiny smile that plays on ones face when one hears/reads a rather intelligent anecdote; the smile in reaction to a well told fable. The sport of fencing has the exclamation, Touche. It, perhaps, summarises the reaction rather well.
In The Open Window, Framton Nuttel, the narrator, is visiting likeable ladies in his new neighbourhood on his sister’s recommendations to calm his nerve (nursing a broken heart perhaps?). The story begins rather abruptly (we like) with the young niece of a certain Mrs. Sappleton informing Framton that he will have to wait awhile to meet her aunt and that his only source of entertainment will be her until then.
The niece, described as “self possessed”, talks vivaciously to Framton filling in details of the neighbourhood in general and her aunt in particular. Framton learns of the death of Mrs. Sappleton’s husband and two brothers 3 years ago while out on a hunt. The sudden demise affected Mrs. Sappleton to no end and she still expected them to come trooping in through the French window kept open for that sole reason. The niece, very politely, tells Framton a ghostly story scaring him out of his skin.
The Open Window is a story spanning 2-3 pages but there is a whole lot more to it than meets the eye. Read it for Saki’s very witty description of the Victorian-Edwardian era and their reaction to outsiders. The mention of the “Letter of Introduction” in this story is another indication towards it. Saki was an outsider when he went to boarding school and that shows in how he brings up the idiosyncratic behaviour of the locals.
Saki is a master story teller and a witty one at that!