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Stanford Libraries acquire Saroyan papers

STANFORD -- The Stanford University Libraries have acquired, as a gift, the papers and documents of the American author and playwright William Saroyan.

Robert Setrakian, executor of the Saroyan estate and director of the William Saroyan Foundation, and Michael Keller, Stanford university librarian and director of Academic Information Resources, reached a joint agreement to transfer ownership, including intellectual property rights, of the entire William Saroyan archival collection from the foundation to Stanford. The collection now resides in several different sites and is being assembled at Stanford. Once a preliminary inventory of the entire collection is prepared, it will be made accessible to researchers.

"This donation is one that has great promise for future research and teaching at Stanford, as well as for other scholars coming to Stanford," Keller said. "The collection should be of enormous value to literary scholars, social historians and cultural historians, as well, perhaps, to psychologists interested in the creative mind."

Setrakian said that "it is of special significance that a university of the stature of Stanford has taken on this rather large task of combining all of the collection once again. Stanford is going to take on all of the functions of exploiting the collection through publication, and it will be responsible for maintenance of all the copyrights."

Stanford, working in partnership with the Saroyan Foundation, will establish an annual writer's prize in Saroyan's name. Stanford will create a program to promote reading of Saroyan and other literary figures, and also will name its curatorship for British and American literature for William Saroyan.

More than 900 boxes of manuscripts, diaries, personal effects, contracts and letters already have been transported to Stanford from Fresno. Several hundred more boxes have yet to be moved to Stanford, but are expected in the near future.

Some of that material had been on deposit at the Bancroft Library of the University of California-Berkeley until the Saroyan Foundation determined where it would ultimately reside.

Saroyan was born in Fresno in 1908 and died there in 1981. The son of an Armenian immigrant, he left school at age 15. His first collection of short stories, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, was published in 1934, and four years later he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his play, The Time of Your Life. However, Saroyan declined to accept the prize, noting that the play was "no more great or good" than his other works. Saroyan was one of the most prolific authors of the 20th century, with more than 4,000 literary works to his credit.



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