(CLASSIC: from The Collected Short Stories of Saki, Wordsworth)
I love this story for its naughtiness. The hero, Clovis, decides to play a trick on a prematurely elderly vicar and his sister, pretending that the Bishop has sent him to arrange a massacre of the local Jews. It’s been a bit out-of-favour with some suggestion that it’s anti-semitic – or that it means Saki was anti-semitic – but I don’t see that in it at all. All the Jewish characters in the story are quite sensible, normal people. It’s the Christians who behave in this extraordinary way – in fact, it’s a satire on anti-semitism and using humour like this seems quite Jewish to me.
(MODERN: from Tokyo Cancelled, HarperPerennial)
I first heard this story on Radio 4 a few years ago and fell so in love with it that I had to track down the author’s other works. It’s mysterious, oblique, and food for pondering. What does it mean? The first sentence is a great one: “I once heard of a place where all the words necessary for social intercourse were furnished by a cheery wordsmith.” How can you not want to read on?
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