Don Zerilli Mooradian

Saroyan Tried to See the Best in People

April 24 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide in which as many as 1.5 million men, women and children were systematically killed off by Ottoman Turks and their accomplices. It is important that we pause to remember this date and commit ourselves to preventing such horrors from being repeated, despite all the evidence indicating we humans are not up to the task.

This centennial remembrance is needed, as is official recognition of the genocide by the world and the modern Republic of Turkey, even if it was the predecessor Ottoman Empire responsible for the atrocities.

Also, I believe it is important for Armenians to move on with their history and to continue to share their talents with the world. Yesterday, I listed famous Armenians at

William Saroyan-younger days

William Saroyan-younger days

Today, I would like to focus on William Saroyan. Until the recent rise of a certain woman with an Armenian last name became famous for who knows why, Saroyan was arguably the most well-known Armenian in the world.

I was very glad to hear that Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are making a movie called Ithaca, based on William Saroyan’s classic 1943 novel The Human Comedy. The story is about 14-year-old Homer who delivers telegrams in the small California town during World War II.

Saroyan had won the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for his play The Time of Your Life. He served in the U.S. Army during the war. The story is that Saroyan was asked to write a screenplay for The Human Comedy, was taken off the project and then hurriedly wrote the book, which explains slight differences in the stories. Nonetheless, when MGM was promoting the movie trailer, it splashes the first edition cover of Saroyan’s book across the screen. It ends the trailer with a reference to the book also.

Saroyan was not perfect; none of us are. He understood that but nonetheless harbored a love for humankind, at least in the abstract. Some worthwhile Saroyan Quotes

“In the time of your life, live—so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”

“Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure.”

“The role of art is to make a world which can be inhabited.”

“Remember that every man is a variation of yourself”

Scene from 1943 movie (There are several scenes available on You Tube. I included this one because several of the others are just too sad. This scene is much more light-hearted, complete with the innocence Hollywood wanted audiences to believe American soldiers possessed in addition to the prevailing sexism of the era.)

Okay, since I don’t know if you will see the original or the remake of The Human Comedy, I will include one of the most moving scenes from the 1943 film starring Mickey Rooney. Saroyan was frequently accused of being hokey, just like Frank Capra. The scene, though, is poignant across all people and all time.

Here’s a whole movie for free based on Saroyan’s award-winning play The Time of Your Life

Issued May 1991

Issued May 1991

Mini-preview of documentary about Saroyan

1943 film from Wikipedia

Saroyan’s book and adaptations

BACKGROUND: Armenia is an ancient nation, historically covering a large area in what is now eastern Turkey, northern Iraq and northern Iran with communities scattered into present-day Syria, Lebanon and Jerusalem. Armenians say they settled around Mt. Ararat after Noah’s ark landed there following the Bible’s Great Flood. It claims that in 301AD it became the first nation to accept Christianity as its official religion.

Being in at a geographically important trade and military crossroads, Armenia has been conquered many times by many different cultures. Most of its ancient homelands came under Ottoman rule during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and remained so for hundreds of years.

During World War I, the region was a chaotic battleground with Turks, Russians, Kurds, Armenians, Arabs and others along with the western Allies fighting it out for the future of the entire Middle East.

On April, 24 1915, Ottoman (Turkish) authorities arrested 250-270 Armenian political leaders and intellectuals in Constantinople (now Istanbul). These leaders along with several thousand more were soon killed, jailed or deported. The date is used to commemorate the beginning of The Armenian Genocide.

From Wikipedia: “While there is no clear consensus as to how many Armenians lost their lives during the Armenian genocide and what followed, there seems to be a consensus among Western scholars with the exception of few dissident and Turkish national historians, as to when covering all the period between 1914 to 1923, over a million Armenian might have perished, and the tendency seem recently to be, either presenting 1.2 million as figure or even 1.5 million, while more moderately, “over a million” is presented, as the Turkish historian Fikret Adanir provides as estimation, but excludes what followed 1917.”


One comment on “Saroyan Tried to See the Best in People

  1. R. Upchurch
    October 31, 2015

    Thanks Don. Excellent sample & comment on the human comedy.


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This entry was posted on April 22, 2015 by in Armenia, history, literature, movies, thoughts, Turkey and tagged , , , , .
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