Knights of Vartan Commemorate William Saroyan

Charles Kasbarian, a well-known essayist, was the featured speaker at a dinner sponsored by the Bakradouny Lodge of the Knights of Vartan and the Sahaganoush Chapter of the Daughters of Vartan.

Kasbarian’s topic was appropriately the life and work of William Saroyan, who is being honored this year in Armenia on the 100th anniversary of his birth and appropriately recognized for the first time in Turkey, where his ancestral home has been turned into a modest museum.

One of the highlights of his fascinating presentation was the playing of an eleven minute tape of James Mandalian’s commen’s on the occasion of the “Salute to Saroyan” mounted by The Armenian Literary Society of New York in 1971.

Kasbarian pointed out that James Mandalian, as editor of the Hairenik Weekly, began publishing Saroyan’s short stories when the author, writing under the pseudonym Sirak Goryan, was relatively unknown; and, in fact, William Saroyan was discovered by the literary world through his publications in the Weekly.

Also of great interest was Kasbarian’s demonstration that the famous and widely distributed poster with Saroyan’s words about the survival of the Armenia’s was taken out of context and edited by an unknown person, presumably the publisher of the poster.

Kasbarian put Saroyan’s words back into context by reading the story first published in 1935 from which the quotation is taken. The original, titled “The Armenian and The Armenian,” reads as follows:

"I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose history is ended, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, whose literature is unread, whose music is unheard, whose prayers are no longer uttered.

Go ahead, destroy this race. Let us say that it is again 1915. There is war in the world. Destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them from their homes into the desert. Let them have neither bread nor water. Burn their houses and their churches. See if they will not live again. See if they will not laugh again. See if the race will not live again when two of them meet in a beer parlor, twenty years after, and laugh, and speak in their tongue. Go ahead, see if you can do anything about it. See if you can stop them from mocking the big ideas of the world, you sons of bitches, a couple of Armenia’s talking in the world, go ahead and try to destroy them."

Charles Kasbarian, also known as. C.K. Garabed has been active in the Armenian church and in Armenian community organizations all of his life. He has lectured on various subjects to a number of Armenian Church and community groups. As a writer and editor, he has been a keen observer of, and outspoken commentator on, political and social matters affecting Armenian-Americans. He has been a regular contributor to the Armenian Reporter and the AGBU Literary Quarterly, ARARAT.

For almost 20 years he has produced a weekly column called Uncle Garabed’s Notebook for the Armenian Weekly in which he presents an assortment of tales, anecdotes, poems, riddles, and trivia of interest to Armenian-American readers. For the most recent nine years, each column has contained a deconstruction of an Armenian surname.

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