William Saroyan. One of the greatest storytellers of all time. A writer whose life consisted of observing people, their stories and writing them, himself included. Workers, actors, tailors, gamblers, prostitutes, unemployed people, newsboys, children. Stories from the eyes to the heart, from the heart to the type-writer, his most important possession, not something he owns, maybe a part of both his body and soul. Reading Saroyan is like listening to the sound of a river, being intoxicated with the murmuring of trees. He shows the way of being a human being with our pain in this harsh world, facing ourselves, getting hold of a fine life becoming a human with our sorrow and joy. 

Reading Saroyan is like listening to the sound of a river, being intoxicated with the murmuring of trees. He shows the way of being a human being with our pain in this harsh world, facing ourselves, getting hold of a fine life becoming a human with our sorrow and joy. 

Saroyan was never a good student, he had trouble with the school system. He had various jobs, but the reason of his living was writing, he felt it in his veins. He wrote and wrote, sent his stories to different magazines, but they were never published. His story “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze” was accepted by “Story” magazine in 1933. After that his stories started to be published in different important magazines. In 1934 Random House published “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and Other Stories.” It was the best selling story book of that year. Then came plays, novels, more and more stories. This young man of Fresno, California, whose hometown was Bitlis in Turkey, attracted the attention of the country and the world. It is so fascinating to be with his writing, watch his plays, feeling happy then sad, or vice versa, just like it happens in real life. His “daring” ideas on writing has been a great source of inspiration since the publication of his stories. Forgetting about how the great writers write, their rules, but writing, writing the story, flowing from your soul, as it is, in the sincerest way. A young writer on the point of starving,  an Assyrian barber stating there are only “Seventy Thousand” of them in the whole world, the importance of aspirin, the writing process of writers under harsh conditions, wars, the meaninglessness of fight, schools, boys and girls trying to find the meaning of their own beings, the mind of the story-teller. He expresses what his aim is in writing in his story “Seventy Thousand Assyrians“:                                                                                                  “If I have any desire at all, it is to show the brotherhood of man… I do not believe in races. I do not believe in governments. I see life as one life at one time, so many millions simultaneously, all over the earth… We grow up and we learn the words of a language and we see the universe through the language we know… we isolate ourselves in the language we know… If I want to do anything, I want to speak a more universal language. The heart of man, the unwritten part of man, that which is eternal and common to all races.” 

Saroyan’s stories are like Gauguin’s famous painting “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” He tells us the story of mankind, but in happier tones, knowing the story is a sad one but also it can be laughed at. In his famous preface to the first edition of “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze”, he writes:

“If you write as if you believe that ultimately you and everyone else alive will be dead, there is a chance that you will write in a pretty earnest style… On the other hand, in order not to be a fool, you must believe that as much as death is inevitable life is inevitable. That is, the earth is inevitable, and people and other living things on it are inevitable, but that no man can remain on the earth very long. You do not have to be very tragic about this. As a matter of fact, you can be as amusing as you like about it. It is really one of the basically humorous things, and it has all sorts of possibilities for laughter.” 

His tone is deep as our hearts are deep and to explain this depth all we need is to be simple, sincere, vivid and true as life really is. To be able to reflect life as it is, the truth, ourselves, without any ornaments, as it is reflected in the eyes of humanity

Writing was the very first aim in his life, whether he was starving, utterly cold or in pain. Walking the streets, talking to people, walking up and down his room which was unbelievably small, but it was his universe, his mind was always on writing, especially stories. There are not many subjects in his stories, maybe no subjects at all, but it is the story itself, the story of all stories and you cannot help reading them, one after the other, you also ask for more. You feel very happy and very sad at the same time, you laugh and then you start crying. This was also the comment of the people who were rushing to watch his plays at Broadway, you feel happy and sad at the same time in a strange way and you think that this is just what life is. He wrote about himself as well, as he was part of this world, this world was his breath, his work of art, his source of laughter and sadness, like all of us. Being part of this world, the “the most solid advice for a writer” and for all of us is in  Saroyan’s famous preface again:

“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.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.