wicked & humorous tales
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R E A D IN G & T R A IN IN G
t M e r e u s
t a l e su M e r e u s
Text adaptation and activities by Kenneth Brodey
C e r ) T e r ) 1 " s
The Life of Saki
'T P i e O p e r ) \N(nOc>w
Part I A Nervous Man
Part II Mental Excitement
T f i e (f
'X e>\>& nA o r 1Part
A Great Discovery
Some Terrible Discoveries
A C T I V I T I E S 17, 25, 35, 42, 51, 58, 72, 82, 91, 102, 114, 122
INTERNET PROJECT 106
E X I T T E S T 125
.FO E First Certificate in English Examination-style exercises
T: g r a d e 7 Trinity-style exercises (Grade 7)
This story is recorded in full.
These symbols indicate the beginning and end of the extracts linked to the listening activities.
Hector Hugh Munro
The Life of Saki (18 70-1916)Saki is a very popular short-story writer. He wrote satirical stories about
aristocrats, strange adults, children, talking animals, wicked 1 jokes,
exploding eggs, and cruel destiny. And all these strange stories are told
with that particular dry English sense of humour. Most of Sakis stories
describe the customs and manners of the English upper classes during
the reign of Edward VII (1901-1910) with precision and irony. Saki also
wrote two novels on social manners which inspired later writers such as
1. wicked : very bad.
Evelyn Waugh, 1 the playwright Noel Coward 2 and, more recently,
Roald D ah l,3 who is most famous for his wickedly funny books for
children.But Saki himself? Saki was the pen-name of a shy man named Hector
Hugh Munro. Hector was born in Akyab, Burma (now known as
Myanmar) in 1870. His mother died soon after his birth. His father was
a senior official of the Burma police. When Hector was only two, he, his
sister Ethel and his brother Charlie were sent back to Devon in England
to live with their aunts. Hectors aunts were named Tom and Augusta
(you have read correctly - one of Hectors aunts was named Tom). They
hated each other very much and neither of them liked Hector. Hector
was an unhealthy child and he was educated at home, but he was able to
survive this horrible life with Tom and Augusta with the help of his
fantastic imagination. He often made up fables and short stories which
he illustrated himself. His sister tells of one particular illustration that
Hector made o f lions eating some m issionaries. These particular
missionaries looked suspiciously like his aunts.
After Hector finished his education his father got him a job with the
Colonial Burmese Military Police, but after less than a year he became
ill with malaria and had to return home to England. Back in England he
began to write political satires for the Westminster Gazette, which were
extremely popular. He also worked as a foreign correspondent for the
Morning Post in Russia, Poland and Paris. Then Hector returned to
London where he planned to live by writing books. The first book he
1. Evelyn Waugh : (1903-66) pen-name of Arthur St John, a British writer.
2. Noel Coward : (1899-1973) British writer of satirical plays.3. Roald Dahl : (1916-90) British writer. Famous works include Charlie and
the Chocolate Factory and The BFG.
wrote was a history of Russia from its origins to the 17th century, The
Rise o f the Russian Empire (1899). This was certainly a strange choice
for a first book. But Hector was a great admirer of Edward Gibbon
(1737-94), the author of Decline and Fall o f the Roman Empire.
This book was not a success, so Hector returned to writing political
satire for newspapers. He also began writing short stories and novels.
According to Hectors sister, he took his pen-name from a collection of
Persian poetry called The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, which was very
popular in England at the time. In this poem there is a servant named
A better and more entertaining theory was proposed by the English
writer Tom Sharpe. He says that Hector wanted to honour his hero
Edward Gibbon in an ironic way. A gibbon is also a kind of Asian
monkey, and a saki is a kind of South American monkey with a long
tail that is very delicate and normally silent, except when it is provoked.
Hector too was a delicate, introverted creature who rarely spoke except
When World War I began, Hector immediately joined the army as a
private. 1 He had been offered an officers commission, 2 but he refused.
He went to fight in France where he was killed.
There is a strange and probably fictitious story about Hectors death
which seems like a story written by Hector himself. One night in the
trenches,3 Hector, who was now a sergeant, saw that one of his men was
smoking. It was very dangerous to smoke at night because the enemy
1. private : an ordinary soldier.2. officers com m ission : document signed by the king which gave someone
the position of officer (lieutenant, captain, colonel, etc.) in the army.3. trenches : deep passages cut into the ground as a protection for soldiers.
soldiers shot at the light of burning cigarettes. Hector turned to this
soldier and shouted, T u t that bloody 1 cigarette out! In that very
moment, an enemy soldier shot. But this enemy soldier had not directed
his rifle towards the light of the burning cigarette, but towards the sound
of Hectors voice giving the command. Hector was killed. A terrible
irony - an irony that Saki would have appreciated.
O Answer the following questions.
a. What kind of stories did he write?
b. What social group is described in Sakis stories?
c. What was Sakis real name?
d. Why was his childhood difficult?
e. How did he survive it?
f. What was Sakis job when he was a young man?
g. According to Sakis sister what was the origin of his pen-name?
h. What is an alternative theory to the origins of this strange pen-name?
i. How did Saki die?
I1. bloody [bUdi] (informal British English, not polite) : expression used to
show anger, annoyance.
a c t i v i t i e s
Before you read
0 Discuss the following questions with a partner.
1. Do you believe in ghosts?2. What do you think of people who say that they have seen ghosts?
a. They really have seen ghosts - ghosts exist.b. They are liars.c. People sometimes think they see ghosts because they are
ill, emotionally upset, tired or nervous.d. Other.
T: GRADE 7
0 Topic - Village and city lifeDiscuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of both village and city life. Use these questions to help you.
a. Do you live in a city, a town or a village?b. What are some of the characteristics of city and village life?
c. How are the personalities of people who live in the city different from those who live in villages?
d. If you had to move to either the city or the country, what one thing from your old lifestyle would you miss most? What one change would you like best?
Q Look at the picture on page 15.
a. Describe the people in the picture. What can you imagine about their personalities?
b. What do you think they are discussing?c. Do you think the people know each other well?
A C T I V I T I E S
f c e Q Listen to the beginning of Part One and choose the best answer A, B or C.
1 The doctor told Framton
A [ ] to leave the city.
B Q to relax.
C O to go and stay with his sister.
2 Framton Nuttel decided to go to the
A Q country.
B Q city.
C Q theatre.
3 Mrs Sappletons niece was called
A Q Sarah.
B Q Clara.
4 Mrs Sappletons tragedy happened exactly
A Q a week ago.
B Q three years ago.
C Q] four years ago.
5 Mrs Sappletons husband and brothers fell into
A a lake.B a trap.C a bog.
P a r t i
Take my advice, replied Framtons sister. It will be good for you.
So Fram ton went to the country with his s is te r s letters of
introduction. The first person he visited was Mrs Sappleton. He
knocked at the door of Mrs Sappleton s house and a young girl
about fifteen years old opened the door. It was Mrs Sappleton s niece. Her name was Vera.
My aunt will be down in a moment, Mr Nuttel, said the girl,
who looked very mature and intelligent. While you are waiting, I
will try to entertain you. I hope you dont m ind.
Oh, I will be happy to talk with you, replied Framton. He did
not want to offend the girl. But he wondered 1 if going to meet
new people was really good for his health. In fact, he felt quitebr : . '
nervous, and he hoped that Mrs Sappleton was nice.
Do you know m any of the people round h ere? asked Mrs
Sappleton s niece after a few minutes of silence.
N o, replied Framton, I dont know anybody around here. My
sister stayed here four years ago and she gave me some letters of
introduction to some of the people here.
Framton felt more and more nervous, and he was more and
more convinced that it was a bad idea. He needed rest, not new friends.
Then you know practically nothing about my aunt? continued the confident 2 young lady.
I know only her name and a d d re ss, adm itted Framto