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Ara Guler and William Saroyan

07 Dec 2018

Saroyan was born in America, but he was 100 percent Armenian. His father, a farmer, was from Bitlis. Hunger forced him to emigrate, as it did many. He wrote a little, but it was his son who took up the mantle. Saroyan became famous by recording his setbacks suffered by ordinary people who, like him, had been uprooted and who struggled to earn a living.





I had been chasing Saroyan for four or five years. Every time I went to America, I tried to see him, but it was in Paris, where he lived for 15 years, that I finally caught up with him. He lived at no. 74 rue de Taitbout, in the 9th arrondissement. He didn't stay in much, preferring to wander the district and have a drink with the neighbors. I took this picture in a cafe, but I took others at his shoemaker, his tailor, etc. He happily wore his Astrakhan fur hat above his sapper's mustache. He was quite a sight. He could hold his drink and enjoy gambling. I once went Aigues-Mortes with him for a gypsy pilgrimage. He knew Istanbul - the Buyukada district, in particular. His were scattered half over Fresno, where he was born, and the half over Yerevan, where he would like to have lived.





How William Saroyan "helped" Ara Guler to meet and shoot Sergei Parajanov



[In 1976] I left for Armenia with William Saroyan. We had loads of projects in mind. On the first evening, he suggested we go to the cinema. I had other priorities and wishes, but I agreed. And I had no regrets. That evening, I saw Parajanov's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. We were both flabbergasted. We were introduced to him afterwards and discovered a most singular man.