William Saroyan quotes

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William Saroyan

Birthdate: 31. August 1908
Date of death: 18. May 1981

William Saroyan was an Armenian-American novelist, playwright, and short story writer. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1940, and in 1943 won the Academy Award for Best Story for the film adaptation of his novel The Human Comedy.

Saroyan wrote extensively about the Armenian immigrant life in California. Many of his stories and plays are set in his native Fresno. Some of his best-known works are The Time of Your Life, My Name Is Aram and My Heart's in the Highlands.

He has been described in a Dickinson College news release as "one of the most prominent literary figures of the mid-20th century" and by Stephen Fry as "one of the most underrated writers of the [20th] century." Fry suggests that "he takes his place naturally alongside Hemingway, Steinbeck and Faulkner."

Works

The Human Comedy
William Saroyan
The Time of Your Life
The Time of Your Life
William Saroyan
My Name Is Aram
My Name Is Aram
William Saroyan

„One day, back there in the good old days when I was nine and the world was full of every kind of magnificence, and life was still a delightful and mysterious dream, my cousin Mourad, who was considered crazy by everybody who knew him except me, came to my house at four in the morning and woke me up by tapping on the window of my room.“

—  William Saroyan, book My Name Is Aram

"The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse".
My Name Is Aram (1940)
Context: One day, back there in the good old days when I was nine and the world was full of every kind of magnificence, and life was still a delightful and mysterious dream, my cousin Mourad, who was considered crazy by everybody who knew him except me, came to my house at four in the morning and woke me up by tapping on the window of my room.
"Aram," he said.
I jumped out of bed and looked out the window.
I couldn't believe what I saw.
It wasn't morning yet, but it was summer and with daybreak not many minutes around the corner of the world it was light enough for me to know I wasn't dreaming.
My cousin Mourad was sitting on a beautiful white horse.

„Then swiftly, neatly, with the grace of the young man on the trapeze, he was gone from his body.
For an eternal moment he was still all things at once: the bird, the fish, the rodent, the reptile, and man.“

—  William Saroyan

"The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze"
The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934)
Context: Then swiftly, neatly, with the grace of the young man on the trapeze, he was gone from his body.
For an eternal moment he was still all things at once: the bird, the fish, the rodent, the reptile, and man. An ocean of print undulated endlessly and darkly before him. The city burned. The herded crowd rioted. The earth circled away, and knowing that he did so, he turned his lost face to the empty sky and became dreamless, unalive, perfect.

„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.“

—  William Saroyan

Preface
The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934)
Context: 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.

„You act as if you know more than I'll ever know, but I've forgotten more than you'll ever know.“

—  William Saroyan

Jim Dandy : Fat Man in a Famine (1947)
Context: You act as if you know more than I'll ever know, but I've forgotten more than you'll ever know. You're snobs, too. Every man I've ever met has been a snob. You don't have to be a snob, too, do you? Please sign this piece of paper, so I can be a member of the public library and read books and find out about people. I don't want to hate you, I just can't help it.

„I have been fascinated by it all, grateful for it all, grateful for the sheer majesty of the existence of ideas, stories, fables, and paper and ink and print and books to hold them all together for a man to take aside and examine alone. But the man I liked most and the man who seemed to remind me of myself — of what I really was and would surely become — was George Bernard Shaw.“

—  William Saroyan

Hello Out There (1941)
Context: I have read books about the behavior of mobs — The Mob by Le Bon, if I remember rightly, was one — about the crime in children, and the genius in them, about the greatest bodies of things, and about the littlest of them. I have been fascinated by it all, grateful for it all, grateful for the sheer majesty of the existence of ideas, stories, fables, and paper and ink and print and books to hold them all together for a man to take aside and examine alone. But the man I liked most and the man who seemed to remind me of myself — of what I really was and would surely become — was George Bernard Shaw.

„Every man alive in the world is a beggar of one sort or another, every last one of them, great and small.“

—  William Saroyan

"The Beggars" in The William Saroyan Reader (1958)
Context: Every man alive in the world is a beggar of one sort or another, every last one of them, great and small. The priest begs God for grace, and the king begs something for something. Sometimes he begs the people for loyalty, sometimes he begs God to forgive him. No man in the world can have endured ten years without having begged God to forgive him.

„I believed from the beginning of remembered experience that I was somebody with an incalculable potential for enlargement, somebody who both knew and could find out, upon whom demands could be made with the expectation of having them fulfilled.
I felt at the same time, and pretty much constantly, that I was nothing in relation to Enormity, the Unknown, and the Unknowable.“

—  William Saroyan

Here Comes There Goes You Know Who (1961)
Context: I believed from the beginning of remembered experience that I was somebody with an incalculable potential for enlargement, somebody who both knew and could find out, upon whom demands could be made with the expectation of having them fulfilled.
I felt at the same time, and pretty much constantly, that I was nothing in relation to Enormity, the Unknown, and the Unknowable. I was too vulnerable, too lacking in power, a thing of subtle reality, liable to be blown away without a moment's warning, a migrant with no meaning, no guide, no counsel, an entity in continuous transition, a growing thing whose stages of growth always went unnoticed, a fluid and flawed thing. Thus, there could be no extreme vanity in my recognition of myself, if in fact there could be any at all. I did frequently rejoice in the recognition, but I may have gotten that from some of the Protestant hymns I had heard, and knew, and had sung, such as Joy to the World. The simple fact was that if the song wasn't about me, I couldn't see how it could possibly be about anybody else, including the one I knew it was supposed to be about, and good luck to him, too.

„I love Armenia and I love America and I belong to both, but I am only this: an inhabitant of the earth, and so are you, whoever you are.“

—  William Saroyan

Inhale and Exhale (1936), Antranik and the Spirit of Armenia
Context: It's all over. We can begin to forget Armenia now. Andranik is dead. The nation is lost. I'm no Armenian. I'm an American. Well, the truth is I am both and neither. I love Armenia and I love America and I belong to both, but I am only this: an inhabitant of the earth, and so are you, whoever you are. I tried to forget Armenia but I couldn't do it.

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„I cannot see the war as historians see it.“

—  William Saroyan

The Resurrection of a Life (1935)
Context: I cannot see the war as historians see it. Those clever fellows study all the facts and they see the war as a large thing, one of the biggest events in the legend of the man, something general, involving multitudes. I see it as a large thing too, only I break it into small units of one man at a time, and see it as a large and monstrous thing for each man involved. I see the war as death in one form or another for men dressed as soldiers, and all the men who survived the war, including myself, I see as men who died with their brothers, dressed as soldiers. There is no such thing as a soldier. I see death as a private event, the destruction of the universe in the brain and in the senses of one man, and I cannot see any man's death as a contributing factor in the success or failure of a military campaign.

„If you can't write a decent short story because of the cold, write something else. Write anything.“

—  William Saroyan

The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934), A Cold Day
Context: If you can't write a decent short story because of the cold, write something else. Write anything. Write a long letter to somebody.

„Death is not an easy thing for anyone to understand, least of all a child, but every life shall one day end. But as long as we are alive, as long as we are together, as long as two of us are left, and remember him, nothing in the world can take him from us. His body can be taken, but not him.“

—  William Saroyan, book The Human Comedy

The Human Comedy (1943)
Context: Death is not an easy thing for anyone to understand, least of all a child, but every life shall one day end. But as long as we are alive, as long as we are together, as long as two of us are left, and remember him, nothing in the world can take him from us. His body can be taken, but not him. You shall know your father better as you grow and know yourself better. He is not dead, because you are alive. Time and accident, illness and weariness took his body, but already you have given it back to him, younger and more eager than ever. I don't expect you to understand anything I'm telling you. But 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.

„Jesus never said anything about absurdity, and he never indicated for one flash of time that he was aware of the preposterousness of his theory about himself.“

—  William Saroyan

Sons Come and Go, Mothers Hang in Forever (1976)
Context: Jesus never said anything about absurdity, and he never indicated for one flash of time that he was aware of the preposterousness of his theory about himself. And he didn't even try to make the theory understandable in terms of the reality and experience of the rest of us. For if everybody else is also not what Jesus said he was, what good is what he said?

„I don't like to see kids throw away their truth just because it isn't worth a dime in the open market.“

—  William Saroyan

"The Flashing Dragonfly" (1973)
Context: Whoever the kid had been, whoever had the grand attitude, has finally heeded the admonishment of parents, teachers, governments, religions, and the law: "You just change your attitude now please, young man." This transformation in kids — from flashing dragonflies, so to say, to sticky water-surface worms slowly slipping downstream — is noticed with pride by society and with mortification by God, which is a fantastic way of saying I don't like to see kids throw away their truth just because it isn't worth a dime in the open market.

„I began to write in the first place because I expected everything to change, and I wanted to have things in writing the way they had been.“

—  William Saroyan

"One Day in the Afternoon of the World" (1964)
Context: I began to write in the first place because I expected everything to change, and I wanted to have things in writing the way they had been. Just a little things, of course. A little of my little.

„In the time of your life, live — so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding-place and let it be free and unashamed. Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are things that hold death and must pass away. Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world.“

—  William Saroyan, The Time of Your Life

The Time of Your Life (1939)
Context: In the time of your life, live — so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding-place and let it be free and unashamed. Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are things that hold death and must pass away. Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world. Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart. Be the inferior of no man, nor of any man be the superior. Remember that every man is a variation of yourself. No man's guilt is not yours, nor is any man's innocence a thing apart. Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil. These, understand. Have no shame in being kindly and gentle, but if the time comes in the time of your life to kill, kill and have no regret. In the time of your life, live — so that in the 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.

„The writer is a spiritual anarchist, as in the depth of his soul every man is.“

—  William Saroyan

The William Saroyan Reader (1958)
Context: The writer is a spiritual anarchist, as in the depth of his soul every man is. He is discontented with everything and everybody. The writer is everybody's best friend and only true enemy — the good and great enemy. He neither walks with the multitude nor cheers with them. The writer who is a writer is a rebel who never stops.

„There is no such thing as a soldier. I see death as a private event, the destruction of the universe in the brain and in the senses of one man, and I cannot see any man's death as a contributing factor in the success or failure of a military campaign.“

—  William Saroyan

The Resurrection of a Life (1935)
Context: I cannot see the war as historians see it. Those clever fellows study all the facts and they see the war as a large thing, one of the biggest events in the legend of the man, something general, involving multitudes. I see it as a large thing too, only I break it into small units of one man at a time, and see it as a large and monstrous thing for each man involved. I see the war as death in one form or another for men dressed as soldiers, and all the men who survived the war, including myself, I see as men who died with their brothers, dressed as soldiers. There is no such thing as a soldier. I see death as a private event, the destruction of the universe in the brain and in the senses of one man, and I cannot see any man's death as a contributing factor in the success or failure of a military campaign.

„He paints for the blind, and we are the blind, and he lets us see for sure what we saw long ago but weren't sure we saw.“

—  William Saroyan

On painter Rufino Tamayo.
I Used to Believe I Had Forever — Now I'm Not So Sure (1968)
Context: He paints for the blind, and we are the blind, and he lets us see for sure what we saw long ago but weren't sure we saw. He paints for the dead, to remind us that — great good God, think of it — we're alive, and on our way to weather, from the sea to the hot interior, to watermelon there, a bird at night chasing a child past flowering cactus, a building on fire, barking dogs, and guitar-players not playing at eight o'clock, every picture saying, "Did you live, man? Were you alive back there for a little while? Good for you, good for you, and wasn't it hot, though? Wasn't it great when it was hot, though?"

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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