SEVENTY THOUSAND ASSYRIANS

William Saroyan

This story has been withdrawn at the insistence of Stanford University which owns the copyright. We regret this action because Saroyan is a wonderful writer not much read these days and this is a wonderful story about the necessity to preserve what is fine in both humanity and art against those who would dehumanize, commoditize and trivialize them.

The closing paragraphs of the story seem unusually appropriate and are included here to give some sense of the man and his work:

"The rest of the story is pointless. I said so long to the young Assyrian and left the shop. I walked across town, four miles, to my room on Carl Street. I thought about the whole business: Assyria and this Assyrian, Theodore Badal, learning to be a barber, the sadness of his voice, the hopelessness of his attitude. This was months ago, in August, but ever since I have been thinking about Assyria, and I have been wanting to say something about Theodore Badal, a son of an ancient race, himself youthful and alert, yet hopeless. Seventy thousand Assyrians, a mere seventy thousand of that great people, and all the others quiet in death and all the greatness crumbled and ignored, and a young man in America learning to be a barber, and a young man lamenting bitterly the course of history.

Why don't I make up plots and write beautiful love stories that can be made into motion pictures? Why don't I let these unimportant and boring matters go hang? Why don't I try to please the American reading public?

Well, I am an Armenian. Michael Arlen is an Armenian, too. He is pleasing the public. I have great admiration for him, and I think he has perfected a very fine style of writing and all that, but I don't want to write about the people he likes to write about. Those people were dead to begin with. You take Iowa and the Japanese boy and Theodore Badal, the Assyrian; well, they may go down physically, like Iowa, to death, or spiritually, like Badal, to death, but they are of the stuff that is eternal in man and it is this stuff that interests me. You don't find them in bright places, making witty remarks about sex and trivial remarks about art. You find them where I found them, and they will be there forever, the race of man, the part of man, of Assyria as much as of England, that cannot be destroyed, the part that massacre does not destroy, the part that earthquake and war and famine and madness and everything else cannot destroy.

This work is in tribute to Iowa, to Japan, to Assyria, to Armenia, to the race of man everywhere, to the dignity of that race, the brotherhood of things alive. I am not expecting Paramount Pictures to film this work. I am thinking of seventy thousand Assyrians, one at a time, alive, a great race. I am thinking of Theodore Badal, himself seventy thousand Assyrians and seventy million Assyrians, himself Assyria, and man, standing in a barber shop, in San Francisco, in 1933, and being, still, himself, the whole race."

1934

If you'd like to read more of William Saroyan's short fiction, amazon.com has a fine selection of his works.

If you'd like to comment on Stanford's judgment in this matter, contact:

Mimi Calter
Assistant University Librarian & Chief of Staff
Stanford University Libraries
101 Green Library
Stanford, CA 94305-6004

office: +1-650-725-5813
cell: +1-650-799-4515
fax: +1-650-725-4902
skypename: mcalter
e-mail: mcalter@stanford.edu


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