The Armenian & The Armenian

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William Saroyan's best-known words may be the last portion of the story "The Armenian & The Armenian," first published in the collection Inhale & Exhale. The story itself deals with Saroyan meeting a fellow Armenian in a beer parlor in Russia, and the two talking. At the end of the piece, Saroyan launches into his most famous passage, discussing the way the nation of Armenia has been conquered and beaten for centuries, though its people continue on with a resolute determination that powers the Armenian identity even when its members have never had their feet on Armenian-controlled soil. 

The work has been re-printed many times, sometimes the complete story, more often merely the final two paragraphs. It remains not only Saroyan's most quoted work, but one of the finest examples of the Armenian spirit in the wake of the Armenian Genocide and other atrocities that continue on to today. 

 

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 later, 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 Armenians talking in the world, go ahead and try to destroy them.

 

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