BERKELEY, Calif. — The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, has received a gift of hundreds of books, drawings, correspondence and other personal communications to and from one of America’s best-known writers, Armenian-American author and playwright William Saroyan.
The collection includes approximately 48 cartons with 1,200 books and other archival materials assembled by his niece, Jacqueline Kazarian, of San Francisco, who also is the founder of the William Saroyan Literary Foundation International. A celebration marking the donation took place on Friday, May 21, at The Faculty Club on campus.
“UC Berkeley is such an incredible place of learning and growing and intellectual exploration,” said Kazarian, who earned degrees in communication and decorative arts at UC Berkeley in the early 1950s. “I know that my uncle wanted his library, manuscripts and galleys to go to Berkeley. Students will be inspired by the collection.”
Apart from this gift, The Bancroft Library already retains significant holdings of Saroyan’s work that it collected over the course of his life and career, and it continues to add to that collection. Most of the latest materials come from Saroyan’s home on San Francisco’s 15th Avenue that is now a Saroyan museum directed by Kazarian. Those materials were supplemented by Kazarian’s extensive personal collection, as well as by items of Saroyan’s that she acquired through a prominent Boston archivist and via a Saroyan friend.
“Jacqueline Kazarian’s new gift is the largest and most substantial augmentation to the Saroyan collections at Bancroft that we have ever received,” said Peter Hanff, Bancroft’s deputy director.
Saroyan, born in Fresno, Calif., in 1908, drew extensively on his Armenian-American heritage and childhood experiences for his books, plays and short stories. Much of his writing was considered impressionistic and reflected a hearty optimism often hard to find during the gritty Great Depression. He died in 1981 at the age of 72, with his niece at his side.