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Book Title: The Unbearable Bassington|
The author of the book: Saki
Edition: Oxford University Press
Date of issue: September 27th 1984
ISBN 13: 9780192813718
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 745 KB
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Reader ratings: 4.1
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The English writer H. H. Munro, writing under the pen name Saki, straddled the19th and 20th centuries. He mainly wrote short stories that often addressed the foibles of high Edwardian society, sometimes with a touch of the macabre. His only novel was the short work, The Unbearable Bassington. I think I first read his short story, “The Open Window,” when I was in my mid teens, almost six decades ago, and was captivated by it. This was my first return to any of Saki’s works. It was a pleasant re-acquaintance.
Francesca Bassington is a somewhat cold and self-contained society woman who values her home and possessions above all else, and she is intent on marrying her son off to some heiress in order to avoid having to move. “Francesca was one of those women towards whom Fate appears to have the best of intentions and never to carry them into practice.” Comus Bassington is a self-centered young man whose irresponsibilities may have been excusable and endearing when he was young but whose flippancy and fecklessness has now become a sore point between him and his mother, severely straining their relationship. Francesca maneuvers him into position to make any number of advantageous alliances, but his behavior always scuttles the matches until, in despair, she ships him off to Africa to seek his fortune.
Saki has an acute and satiric wit, perfectly capturing and skewering personalities and social customs. One finds oneself continually amused by events, people, and adventures, always with the awareness that things will turn out well at the end. Literary allusions creep in frequently, particularly satirizing authors for whom Munro has little respect. Two allusions to George Bernard Shaw appear: “Sherard Blaw, the dramatist who had discovered himself, and who had given so ungrudgingly of his discovery to the world;” and, “The whole of the Sherard Blaw school of discursive drama suggests, to my mind, Early Victorian furniture in a travelling circus.” There are also a few rather anti-Semitic remarks, not infrequent in the literature of Munro’s time.
The tone of the novel is light, even apparent setbacks to Francesca’s schemes leaving no premonition that things will not turn out well in the end. If the structure of the novel seems sometimes rather disjointed and episodic, it simply emphasizes that Saki’s forte was in the genre of the short story. The final chapters of the work do an about face, leading to an ending of poignancy without bathos that results in Francesca’s opening to personal insight and the revelation of the love that she and Comus have shared. Until this ending, I was entertained even as I was sure that the novel would not remain long in my mind. Now I think that I was incorrect, and I am haunted by the final pages.
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Read information about the authorHector Hugh Munro, better known by the pen name Saki, was born in Akyab, Burma (now known as Sittwe, Myanmar), was a British writer, whose witty and sometimes macabre stories satirized Edwardian society and culture. He is considered a master of the short story and is often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy Parker. His tales feature delicately drawn characters and finely judged narratives. "The Open Window" may be his most famous, with a closing line ("Romance at short notice was her speciality") that has entered the lexicon. In addition to his short stories (which were first published in newspapers, as was the custom of the time, and then collected into several volumes) he also wrote a full-length play, The Watched Pot, in collaboration with Charles Maude; two one-act plays; a historical study, The Rise of the Russian Empire, the only book published under his own name; a short novel, The Unbearable Bassington; the episodic The Westminster Alice (a Parliamentary parody of Alice in Wonderland), and When William Came, subtitled A Story of London Under the Hohenzollerns, an early alternate history. He was influenced by Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, and Kipling, and himself influenced A. A. Milne, Noël Coward, and P. G. Wodehouse
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