William Saroyan was a world-renowned writer of plays, short stories and novels, and one of the most highly esteemed writers of his generation. He burst upon the literary scene in 1934 at age 26 when his short story The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze was published in Story magazine to critical acclaim, followed by the publication by Random House of a collection of short stores under the same name. Within four years he had published six books, and had three plays running simultaneously on Broadway.
His career soared to stratospheric heights in the 1940’s, when he stood with few others atop the worldwide literary stage. Saroyan’s work was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, and the New York Drama Critics Circle award. He continued to write and publish prodigiously until his death in 1981. He left behind a body of work of hundreds of books, plays, short stories, poems, and songs.
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” was recently 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.”
Saroyan is a hero to the Armenian people, in Armenia and the global Armenian diaspora. He was born in Fresno, California to parents who had immigrated from Bitlis in Western Armenia, now a part of Turkey. Saroyan’s writing and singular voice bore witness to the immigrant life in early 20th century USA, and to the Armenian experience in Fresno, in California and in the global Armenian community.
"Although I write in English, and despite the fact that I'm from America, I consider myself an Armenian writer. The words I use are in English, the surroundings I write about are American, but the soul, which makes me write, is Armenian. This means I am an Armenian writer and deeply love the honor of being a part of the family of Armenian writers."
“It is simply in the nature of Armenian to study, to learn, to question, to speculate, to discover, to invent, to revise, to restore, to preserve, to make, and to give.”
Saroyan was also an exceptional visual artist, who produced a sizable archive of drawings and watercolor paintings. His abstract work was influenced by Chinese brush drawing, Jackson Pollock, and the calligraphic work of Mark Tobey. He created thousands of pieces of art over fifty years. Today his artwork is owned by dozens of museums in the US, and by hundreds of collectors around the world.
“Long before Jackson Pollack, for instance, had begun his magnificent experiments and made his magnificent achievements in painting, I had already been there, I had already made the experiments and had beheld the achievements. I hadn’t made anything of them because writing was my life, and, if I may say so, my business. The drawings and paintings were part of my writing, party of my finding out about writing, and about how I would live my life and write my writing.”
“The role of art is to make a world which can be tolerated.”