Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Unrest Cure by Saki

The Unrest Cure And Other Stories by the English writer H. H. Munro (pen name Saki) with illustrations by Edward Gorey has just been issued (or re-issued depending on your point of view) by The New York Review of Books. Mr. Munro (1870 - 1916) was a British writer and playwright who wrote short stories that satirized upper class Edwardian society. His works first appeared in newspapers and then were published as collected stories.

This is the fourth time these stories have been published with the 1964 Edward Gorey illustrations. Mr. Gorey created the artwork for a German language edition titled Die Offene Tur published by Diogenes. The publisher will re-issue these stories in paperback several times over the next 30 years (I am not showing the German language paperback re-issues, and am combining all of these reprints together as the second time the illustrations appear in print).

In 1981, the Franklin Library produced a leather bound collection titled Saki Short Stories. The Franklin edition features Mr. Gorey's illustrations and is in English. This version has more stories than the German editions, but it does not include all of the Gorey illustrated stories or illustrations. The Franklin Library also commissioned one new illustration by Mr. Gorey for their edition. This illustration, for a story titled The Stalled Ox is printed on page 215 and it does not appear in any other publication of Saki stories. Comparing this drawing to the others in the book, it is finer and more delicate than the earlier illustrations.

I have one piece of original artwork from these stories which is reproduced in both the 1964 and the new 2013 volumes. The story it illustrates is The Hounds of Fate. This small piece of original art has a lot of atmosphere and evokes a mood of gloom. Because I do not read German, I was previously unable to read The Hounds of Fate. Like the drawing, the story is moody and dark. With its enigmatic protagonist and air of impending doom, the story reminded me forcibly of the old television program "Alfred Hitchcock Presents". The artwork is signed by Edward Gorey at the lower right.

In the original German edition (on the left in the photo above), the image in the book is printed the same size as the original artwork (center). In the new edition (on the right), all of the art is printed larger than before and the illustrations suffer a bit from both enlargement and from being reprinted from a previous printing. The line quality is ragged and all subtlety gone from the images. It is, however, nice to finally have an English language version including all of the stories with the Gorey illustrations.


Philip said...

This is not the only connection between Saki and Gorey. In Gorey's "The Blue Aspic", the anti-hero Jasper is seen in one scene to be writing "long letters to Ortenzia that went unanswered”. Near the window in the illustration is a box of breakfast cereal clearly labelled "Filboid Studge". The reference comes from a Saki short story called "Filboid Studge, the Story of the Mouse that Helped" which concerns a hapless graphics artist, Mark Spayley, who wants to marry a food millionaire’s daughter. The problem is that the millionaire actually has a ruinously disastrous new venture on his hands; a desperately failing new breakfast cereal. The young artist takes on the problem. He renames the cereal “Filboid Studge” and produces an amazing advertising campaign for the stuff. It works brilliantly – everyone buys the cereal. The story, however, does not end well for Mark. Sadly the new found success of the cereal restores the millionaire’s millions and he promptly spurns the advances of the young artist towards his daughter in favour of a better match. Mark is forlorn. Typical Gorey to slip in a beautiful symbol mirroring Jasper’s own tragic predicament.

ampootozote said...

Thanks...This is really fun!