Saki: The Open Window

Any day before writing an entry here, I would take out a book from my library and re-read the SS. That way I would have spent a few agreeable minutes and also refreshed my memories of the favourite SS.

Today it is ‘The Open Window’ by Saki (H. H. Munro).

The first time that I read this SS must have been sometime in the mid-1950s when we were living in Hyderabad.  It was included in a school textbook and my father read it to me and my older siblings. Of course, I was a young boy then and I don’t remember what impact it made on me. But my subsequent encounters with the SS were agreeable. This formed part also of a book of short stories prescribed for study when I was in college: by then I was experienced and educated enough to realise its beauties; the appreciation that I wrote on this story in an exam-like atmosphere in the redoubtable Bertram Hall in Loyola College, Madras,  fetched me very high marks.

We have come across the term REST-CURE in The Hindu Crossword occasionally. Well, this SS is about an edgy young man who seeks exactly that. Armed with a letter of introduction from someone, he comes to the house of a lady in a placid village with the hope of getting some much-needed relaxation. He is met by a young girl who informs him that her aunt will come down presently. Then she narrates a story which just doesn’t improve the nerves of the patient. After some moments when the lady’s husband and others return home from a hunting trip, the visitor jumps up and runs away without a word of goodbye or word of apology. Why? Indeed, the lady of the house, now downstairs, wonders what could have compelled the man to run away in such a post-haste manner.  

For which the girl, as precocious as many other young boys and girls in Saki’s stories, has another story.

The last sentence is remarkable and it has got stuck in my memory – not from my college days but from the first time when my father read it to me.

If you have read it, do say what your impression is – without any spoilers, of course. If you have not read it, here you go:


Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall door, the gravel drive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat.

Note: Any excerpt that I give won’t act as a spoiler.


3 Responses to Saki: The Open Window

  1. anokha says:

    “The short story is like an old friend who calls whenever he is in town. We are happy to hear from it; we casually fan the embers of past intimacies, and buy it lunch.”
    — R.Z. Sheppard

    My personal favorite is Italo Calvino!

  2. Shuchi says:

    Before I read this story, I had watched it on TV. There used to be a show on Doordarshan called “Katha Sagar” I think, in which they had hour-long televised versions of short stories.

    I bought a “collected short stories” by Saki much later, where I found this story again, still as fascinating.

  3. What an imp! A real terror!!!

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