The Armenian and the Armenian
"The Armenian and the Armenian" is a short story written by William Saroyan in August 1935 in New York. It was first published in 1936 in the collection of short stories entitled Inhale & Exhale. Over the years, the story has become known for the excerpt—"arguably [Saroyan's] most famous saying"—about the survival of the Armenian people after the genocide of 1915.
William Saroyan was born in Fresno, California, to Armenian immigrant parents from Turkish (Western) Armenia. The Armenian community in Fresno—already significant by the 1910s—grew larger by the influx of genocide survivors and Saroyan grew up in an Armenian environment. In his 1935 story "First Visit to Armenia", Saroyan wrote that he "began to visit Armenia as soon as I had earned the necessary money."
In the story, Saroyan tells about his encounter with an Armenian waiter he accidentally meets at a beer parlor in the Russian city of Rostov in 1935, en route to Soviet Armenia. The two Armenians, although from different parts of the world, speak Armenian with each other. This fact inspired him to write the story. In a personal note for the second edition (1943) of Inhale & Exhale, Saroyan calls "The Armenian and the Armenian" his favorite of the 31 selected stories.
"The Armenian and the Armenian" is best known for its last two paragraphs, in which Saroyan "unleashes emotional energy and praises the Armenians' ability to survive as a nation". The original text reads as follows:
|“||I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose history is ended, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, whose literature is unread, whose music is unheard, whose prayers are no longer uttered.
Go ahead, destroy this race. Let us say that it is again 1915. There is war in the world. Destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them from their homes into the desert. Let them have neither bread nor water. Burn their houses and their churches. See if they will not live again. See if they will not laugh again. See if the race will not live again when two of them meet in a beer parlor, twenty years later, and laugh, and speak in their tongue. Go ahead, see if you can do anything about it. See if you can stop them from mocking the big ideas of the world, you sons of bitches, a couple of Armenians talking in the world, go ahead and try to destroy them.
The quote is often modified; commonly, the phrase "see if they will not create a New Armenia" is added at the end. It remains unclear under what circumstances it was added.
Significance and usage
Over the years, this excerpt has become of symbolic significance in the Armenian diaspora, which was formed, primarily, as a result of the genocide. Various authors, including the Israeli writer Yoram Kaniuk, American playwright David Mamet, Iranian-born Armenian-American academic Vartan Gregorian, French military writer Gérard Chaliand, Armenian-American criminal defense lawyer Mark Geragos, Armenian-American journalist Stephen Kurkjian, and others have used it in their works.
In 2008, California state senators Dave Cogdill and Joe Simitian, along with California assemblymen Greg Aghazarian, Juan Arambula, Paul Krekorian, and Michael Villines proposed a bill which "would designate the year 2008 as the William Saroyan Year". In the statement, "The Armenian and the Armenian" was described as "an especially stirring declaration of solidarity... The words evoke notes of grief, rage, resilience, and rebirth, in relation to Armenian cultural and social life."
- Saroyan, William (1936). Inhale & Exhale. New York: Random House. pp. 437–38.
- Khanjian, Zaven (1 November 2008). "How I came to know Saroyan". The Armenian Reporter. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
...the story which contains his arguably most famous saying.
- Remenyi, Joseph (November 1944). "William Saroyan: A Portrait". College English. National Council of Teachers of English. 6 (2): 92. doi:10.2307/370591.
- "_______". Ararat. New York: Armenian General Benevolent Union. 25: 6. 1984.
- Saroyan, William (1943). 31 selected stories from "Inhale and Exhale". New York: Avon Book Company.
- Sassounian, Harut (5 May 2010). "Is Turkey's Consil Unhappy That Not All Armenians Were Slaughtered Like Sheep?". Noravank Foundation. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
...Saroyan’s well-known statement...
- Shirinian, Lorne (2000). Writing memory: the search for home in Armenian diaspora literature as cultural practice. Kingston, Ontario: Blue Heron Press. p. 86. ISBN 9780920266229.
- Garabed, C.K. (8 August 2009). "CK Garabed: Mincing Words". The Armenian Weekly. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
- Kaniuk, Yoram (1999). Commander of the Exodus. New York: Grove Press. p. 85. ISBN 9781555847821.
- Mamet, David (2006). The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-hatred, and the Jews. New York: Random House. p. 72. ISBN 9780805242744.
- Gregorian, Vartan (2008). The Road to Home: My Life and Times. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 189–190. ISBN 9781439129111.
- Chaliand, Gérard; Rageau, Jean-Pierre (1997). The Penguin atlas of diasporas. New York: Penguin Books. p. 92. ISBN 9780140178142.
- Geragos, Mark; Harris, Pat (2013). "Introduction". Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works...and Sometimes Doesn't. Penguin Books. ISBN 9781101595015. 
- Kurkjian, Stephen (18 April 1993). "Roots of Sorrow". Boston Globe.
- Johnson, Jerry L. (2000). Crossing Borders—confronting History: Intercultural Adjustment in a Post-Cold War World. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. p. 153. ISBN 9780761815365.
- Bakalian, Anny P. (1993). Armenian-Americans: From Being to Feeling Armenian. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. p. 3. ISBN 9781412817479.
- "Relative to William Saroyan Year". Official California Legislative Information. 13 March 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- "The Armenian and the Armenian (2010)". IMDb. Retrieved 14 February 2014.