He now serves as the vice-president of the Toledo International Centre for Peace and has served as a peace negotiator for many international conflicts, most recently between the Colombian government and FARC. He is a regular contributor to Project Syndicate.
Saroyan, William — Armenian-American novelist, short story writer, and playwright. See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. Saroyan do doubt recognized his kinship with [Sherwood] Anderson.
Much of his fiction constitutes a sort of "Story-Teller's Story" and is similar to Anderson in many ways: But Saroyan is an unlikely subject for the exploration of literary influences. Always defiantly unliterary, he has repeatedly expressed contempt for rules and stylistic traditions.
Although he spent much time in the public libraries of Fresno and San Francisco, his reading was fragmentary and cursory. But his attempts to draw upon his reading—or upon reading as an activity—for either subject or theme were not successful.
For some time criticism had recognized that the "I" of a poem, even of the most personal lyric, should never be construed as the poet himself in any faithful autobiographical sense, for to do so was to undercut the literary purpose and betray the artist whose primary aim was to illuminate the human situation.
Somehow this conclusion was slow to be applied to fiction. In none of the reviews of Saroyan's work can one find a sense of this fundamental distinction.
The general tendency was to assume that Saroyan forever wrote about himself.
During this period of prolific effort—by his own estimate he wrote more than five hundred tales in these years—he learned to get into his story immediately; to fit character, setting, and mood to the action; to express with colloquial vigor what his people were capable of saying, and to imply much about what they were able to feel.
His style grew lean, partly because of his own reaction to the criticism that he tended to talk too much. In establishing setting, he began to dispense with description altogether and to rely on simple statement: Ignoring appearances and backgrounds of his characters, he began to do little more than assign names to his people and to start them talking.
Because of his mastery of colloquial speech, these sketches often appeared vital and significant when they were at times no more than incomplete exercises in dramatic composition.
But, at their best, they achieved moments of genuine recognition; and at such times the economy of drama became an important virtue of his story form. In style it is as good as anything he has written: Yet it fails to reflect anything more representative than Saroyan's own weariness and disenchantment: It is an involvement with self that spoils his chances of deriving solace or lasting pleasure from the young lives he briefly touches in the story.
Because the author gives us no indication that his vision is larger than that of his protagonist, the final effect of the novel is restricting and oppressive…. What often defeats Saroyan in his novels is lack of interest in character for its own sake.
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