The Human Comedy (novel)

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The Human Comedy
William Saroyan - The Human Comedy (novel).jpg
First edition cover
Author William Saroyan
Illustrator Don Freeman
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Harcourt
Publication date
February 4, 1943
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)

The Human Comedy is a novel by William Saroyan.

Themes and setting[edit]

The story of The Human Comedy, and the characters Homer and Ulysses in particular, is based on Saroyan's life, living fatherless with his siblings and his mother. Ithaca, California is based on the real town of Fresno, Saroyan's home-town.

The book also has several references to Homer's Odyssey. Homer is both the name of the author of the Odyssey and the main character in this novel. Homer's young brother's name, Ulysses, is the Roman form of the name Odysseus, the Odyssey's protagonist. The theme of both of the books is going home. Ithaca is both Homer's and Ulysses' home-town in the novel and Odysseus' home-island in the Odyssey. Helen Eliot, referring to Helen of Troy, is used as the girl that Homer is in love with. It takes place during World War II.



The original film was released in 1943. A second version, entitled Ithaca, is being directed by Meg Ryan. Filming began in Richmond, Virginia and Petersburg, Virginia in July 2014.[1]


The book was adapted by S Lee Pogostin for television in 1959 with narration by Burgess Meredith. The television adaption starred Michael J. Pollard.

Revised Edition[edit]

Dell paperbacks released a revised edition of the novel in 1966. The revised edition is credited to William Saroyan, with several substantial edits that reduce the story to 192 pages.[2]

Theatrical musical[edit]

The Human Comedy was also adapted into a 1984 Broadway musical by Galt MacDermot, composer of the musical Hair, and William Dumaresq. It starred Stephen Geoffreys, Rex Smith, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. The musical was well received off-Broadway at the New York Shakespeare Festival's Public Theater and transferred to Broadway's Royale Theater. The show ran for 20 previews and 13 regular performances, closing on April 15, 1984 after failing to find a new audience. The story was musicalized as a folk opera, with the band performing onstage with the cast. A complete recording of the show was made, but not released until 1997. The musical was revived in 2006 by the Barrington Stage Company, and starred Debby Boone


External links[edit]