To mark America’s National Library Week (which runs from April 10 to 16), the American Corner at the Yerevan Central Library held a William Saroyan Reading Marathon on Monday, April 11, during which dozens of participants continuously read out loud Saroyan’s novel “The Human Comedy.”
U.S. diplomats, Yerevan city leaders, library officials, students, and library patrons each took a turn reading for five minutes. Joining via Internet were patrons from the other four American Corners, located in Gyumri, Kapan, Vanadzor, and Charentsavan.
U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr., participated in the event by reading for five minutes.
“William Saroyan was about as American as you can be, born in California, raised there, had a very American way of looking at things. He believed in the goodness of people. He was an optimist. He believed that history could get better and life could get better for everyone, especially the common man.,” Ambassador Mills said. “But he was also raised in the heart of the Armenian-American community in California and he had in his heart the values of Armenian culture and life. And he brought those values to all his writing. And I think everyone knows he was a great bridge between America and Armenia.”
Saroyan in 1940 became the only Armenian-American author thus far to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play “The Time of Your Life.” His novel, “The Human Comedy,” was adapted into a film, winning an Academy Award for Best Story in 1943. The story has recently been revisited by actress Meg Ryan, who last year directed the feature film “Ithaca” based on the novel.
The Yerevan American Corner, a partnership between the Embassy and the Yerevan Central Library after Isahakyan, hosted the reading as part of its mission to spread English-language skills and connect Armenian audiences with American literature and culture.
The American Corners in Armenia are celebrating their 10-year anniversary this year. Last year, a record number of Armenians – 67,000 total – visited the five Corners for free English lessons, access to English-language books and DVDs, children’s activities, college and university advising, and access to technology such as computers, internet, and 3D printers. More information on the Corners can be found at: www.americancorners.am
“We are grateful for the Isahakyan Library, and our other library partners throughout Armenia, for helping us bring the specialized resources and expertise of the American Corners directly to the Armenian people,” Ambassador Mills said about the Corners. “While in some countries the American Corners face major challenges and are sometimes forcibly closed, we see the opposite trend here, as every year our American Corners set new records for both attendance and programs. Our American Corners help deepen the already strong friendship between Armenia and the United States, and we are pleased and proud that the Armenian people have shown such deep appreciation for them.”