Today marks William Saroyan`s birth anniversary -
Today marks William Saroyan`s birth anniversary
“I do not write in Armenian, but I look at the world in Armenian.” These are the words of Pulitzer Prize and Oscar-winning Armenian-American writer William Saroyan. August 31 marks his 113rd birthday anniversary.
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“Though I write in English, and despite the fact that I am from America, I consider myself an Armenian writer. The words I use are English, the environment I write about is American, but the soul that forces me to write is Armenian. So, I am an Armenian writer, and I deeply love the honor of belonging to a family of Armenian writers,” Saroyan wrote later about himself.
William Saroyan was born on August 31, 1908 in Fresno, California to Armenak and Takoohi Saroyan, Armenian immigrants from Bitlis, Ottoman Empire. His father came to New York in 1905 and started preaching in Armenian Apostolic Churches.
At the age of three, after his father’s death, Saroyan, along with his brother and sister, was placed in an orphanage in Oakland, California. Five years later, the family reunited in Fresno.
Saroyan decided to become a writer after his mother showed him some of his father’s writings. A few of his early short articles were published in Overland Monthly. His first stories appeared in the 1930s.
Among these was “The Broken Wheel”, written under the name Sirak Goryan and published in the Armenian journal Hairenik in 1933. Many of Saroyan’s stories were based on his childhood experiences among the Armenian-American fruit growers of the San Joaquin Valley or dealt with the rootlessness of the immigrant. The short story collection My Name is Aram (1940), an international bestseller, was about a young boy and the colorful characters of his immigrant family. It has been translated into many languages.
As a writer, Saroyan made his breakthrough in Story magazine with The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934), the title taken from the nineteenth century song of the same title. The protagonist is a young, starving writer who tries to survive in a Depression-ridden society.
He published essays and memoirs, in which he depicted the people he had met on travels in the Soviet Union and Europe, such as the playwright George Bernard Shaw, the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, and Charlie Chaplin. In 1952, Saroyan published The Bicycle Rider in Beverly Hills, the first of several volumes of memoirs.
Saroyan died on May 18, 1981, in his hometown of Fresno. He was buried in Fresno. But according to his will, a part of his heart was buried in Armenia’s capital Yerevan. Thus, a part of the heart of William Saroyan now rests in the Komitas Pantheon among other great Armenians.
His work remains popular to this day. His literature is taught in schools to all ages, and his plays are produced all over the world. His Academy Award winning screenplay “The Human Comedy” has been adapted into the motion picture “Ithaca,” directed by Meg Ryan.
“The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough. The writer who is a real writer is a rebel who never stops.”
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