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August 24, 2009

Vardanants Day Armenian Lecture on Sept. 15 To Commemorate William Saroyan’s Birth

As part of an afternoon dedicated to the celebration of the centenary of Pulitzer Prize-winning Armenian author William Saroyan’s birth, Dickran Kouymjian will deliver the 14th Annual Vardanants Day Lecture titled "The Unknown Saroyan" at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15, in the Mumford Room, located on the sixth floor of the Library of Congress’s James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

The four-hour event is free and open to the public; tickets are not required.

Kouymjian’s speech will be followed by the showing of Saroyan’s 1942 short film, "The Good Job" and the display of one of his scripts from "Omnibus," the renowned 1950s television series. There will also be a reading from Saroyan’s works and the presentation and sale of "Young Saroyan: Follow and Other Early Writings," that encompasses some of his previously unpublished materials. Edited by William B. Secrest Jr. with an introduction by Kouymjian, the book was published in March 2009.

William Saroyan was born in Fresno, Calif., in 1908 to Armenian immigrants. After a difficult childhood that included time in an orphanage, the self-educated Saroyan set out to become an author. He became an instant celebrity after the 1934 publication of "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze," a collection of short stories. In 1939, his play "My Heart’s in the Highlands" was produced on Broadway. That same year, his play "The Time of Your Life" earned him the Pulitzer Prize. His film "The Human Comedy" earned him an Oscar in 1943. The canon of Saroyan’s works include novels, plays, movies scripts, short stories, and essays, all imbued with depth, humor and most of all humanity. Saroyan died in 1981.

Dickran Koumjian is the Haig and Isabel Berberian Professor Emeritus of Armenian Studies at California State University. A friend and confidant to Saroyan during his final years, Koumjian instituted courses at Fresno State on the author’s life and works. In 1996, he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to inventory Saroyan’s manuscripts, papers, correspondence and effects in preparation for their archiving at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was subsequently appointed the second William Saroyan Visiting Professor of Armenian Studies. He has taken part in many of the activities associated with the Saroyan centennial in Paris, Yerevan, Armenia and elsewhere.

The Vardanants Day lecture series is sponsored by the Near East Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division. The series was created to explore and present all aspects of Armenian culture and history. It is named after the Armenian holiday that commemorates the battle of Avarayr (May, A.D. 451), which was waged by Armenian General Vardan Mamikonian and his compatriots against invading Persian troops who were attempting to re-impose Zoroastrianism on the Christian State. As a religious holiday, it also celebrates Armenia’s triumph over forces of assimilation.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized website at myLOC.gov.

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PR 09-158
08/24/09
ISSN 0731-3527

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