Bitter sweet stories of orphan souls

First published in 1940 and making William Saroyan globally renowned, “My Name is Aram” republished in Turkish by Aras Publishing.

There are some books, you feel like you come across with a friend whom you haven't seen for a long time, when they are republished. Joy of reunion is exactly how I feel about the republished version of famous American-Armenian writer William Saroyan's “My Name is Aram”, which is a collection of his most famous and favorite short stories. Edited by Sosi Dolanoğlu and re-translated by İrma Dolanoğlu Çimen and Ohannes Kılıçdağı, new Turkish translation of “My Name is Aram” is now a part of Aras Publishing's Saroyan collection. 

First published in 1940 and making William Saroyan globally renowned, “My Name is Aram”was translated and published by Varlık Publishing once, but then it became out of print. However, the need for Saroyan's naive world doesn't diminish in time. On the contrary, one wants to take shelter in his stories more and more, as the life gets accelerated and rough, since life is slower and small details still matter in there. Those details contain the essence of life; they are the key to human soul.

Old longing, new representation

Saroyan, accompanied by 9-year-old protagonist Aram Karaoğlanyan, takes us to his childhood, his crazy family members whom he introduced as distinct characters and makes us love, his classmates, neighbors, acquaintances; in short, he introduces us the immigrants in the US, who lost their souls. We witness how Aram etched his “homeland of old”, Anatolia, on his mind; the sharp mind of a child who doesn't miss anything. He remembers this homeland that he had never seen but carried in his genetic map in Los Angeles full of Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Armenian, Chines and Jewish immigrants. Saroyan's plain language, which is referred as “Saroyanesque”, makes us feel like we know every one and every place that is mentioned in the stories, thanks to his modest, colloquial, cinematographic and enthusiastic narration. Saroyan turned traditional structure of short stories upside down in a way to allow it move freely with free associations, bring the past to the present, expand time, and gave it flexibility so that it doesn't lose its warmth that makes you feel like you are engaged in a secret conversation with the writer.

A dispossessed who was wealthy in the homeland

We see that how a poor, immigrant child absorbed the sorrow of these rootless people and how he resisted the rule of the teachers and principals in schools to which he had never accommodated himself without compromising his witty manners; in this way, he gives the reader the opportunity to sense his understanding of human nature. And there are all kinds of people in this world... Uncle Hosrov who reminds of a movie star with his giddy actions and great soul; Uncle Melik who tries to grow a pomegranate tree on desert soil and cannot help to give the most useless advice; Cousin Murad who is known as the heir to the crazy nature of the family; and his other cousin Arak who pins all of his mischief on Aram with his innocent and gentle behaviors... Saroyan, through the eyes of Aram, immortalizes everybody.

The dominant feeling is always the longing for the homeland, regardless of about whom or what Saroyan writes. Besides, this longing is for a homeland which the writer knows very well in his life but he has lost. For Saroyan, who was born in Fresno to an Armenian family, Bitlis was the lost homeland in his imagination. When he finally felt ready and visited Anatolia in 1964, he confused the current condition of the city and the Armenian village in his imagination. For the first time, he saw that his imagination doesn't correspond to anything in reality. Many years later, he told about why he hadn't sold his old house and moved there in his play titled “Bitlis”: “There is no Armenian in the town, I would be a strange local there. An American-Armenian writer who has enough money thanks to his 30-year success goes to Bitlis and decides to rebuild his family's old house. He buys the house of the siblings of his grandmother (not his cousins) from the rich Kurdish businessman and settles in this house with his typewriter. He takes long walks along the hills and lives there. A crazy Armenian...”

Isn't it normal that a dispossessed who was wealthy in the homeland and tries to feel belong in the triangle of Bitlis-Fresno-Yerevan, feels the heartsick Arabic immigrant Halil deep in his heart, who used to sit in front of Uncle Hosrov and stayed there for hours without saying a single word? This is what Aram's mother says to his puzzled son: “They don't open their mouths, but still they keep talking. They understand each other and they don't need to open their mouths for that, because they have nothing to hide.”

Articulating the quiet language of the things that cannot be hidden, Saroyan silently invites the ones who have the courage to face with the secrets of their souls, giving literature's credit to life...

About Author

Karin Karakaşlı