William Saroyan was among the most reputed American writers of the early 20th century. He would tell stories about the challenges and delights of rural America through the lens of life in the Central Valley of California. He won a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award.
Saroyan was born in Fresno in 1908. His parents had left the city of Bitlis, in the Ottoman Empire, before the Genocide of 1915. His father died at a young age and Saroyan and his siblings were sent to an orphanage. Years later, they would reunite with their mother.
Claim to fame
He published dozens of novels, short stories and plays, including “The Human Comedy,” “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze,” “My Name is Aram,” “The Time of Your Life.”
What he said
“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.”
“Everybody has to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?”
“I know you will remember this — that nothing good ever ends. If it did, there would be no people in the world — no life at all, anywhere. And the world is full of people and full of wonderful life.”
What others said
“He is one of the most underrated writers of the century. He takes his place naturally alongside Hemingway, Steinbeck and Faulkner.” – Stephen Fry “…A writer who was bigger than life…” – San Francisco Chronicle
Ithaca (film directed by Meg Ryan, starring Tom Hanks, adaptation of “The Human Comedy”)