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Doing Time with William Saroyan.

And so after the reading had come and gone, I remained puzzled by the intensity of Saroyan’s continued popularity among Armenians, especially in the diaspora.

Readers of the Armenian press couldn’t help but be aware that 2008 marked the one-hundredth anniversary of William Saroyan’s birth. A seemingly endless series of readings, performances and commemorations took place last year in the diaspora and in Armenia. In Yerevan, a statue of Saroyan was unveiled, putting him in the elite company of artists such as Aram Khachaturian and Yeghishé Charents. The Republic of Armenia issued a limited series of Saroyan stamps, even though the writer was born seven thousand miles away in Fresno, California. Even UNESCO joined in the fray, making 2008 the official year of Saroyan. Ask anyone to name a great Armenian writer and at least every second answer will be the same: William Saroyan. I must admit to having always found this fascination with Saroyan puzzling, as I had never once read a Saroyan short story or play in all my years of schooling or later on in college or film school. And in my many years of attending Broadway and off-Broadway plays, I have never seen a Saroyan play staged in New York or elsewhere.

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