The Human Comedy, 1943 first edition of William Saroyan's first novel, illustrated by Don Freeman.


Written by William Saroyan. Illustrated by Don Freeman. First edition, 1943. Harcourt, Brace & Company.


"The little boy named Ulysses Macauley one day stood over the new gopher hole in the backyard of his house on Santa Clara Avenue in Ithaca, California. The gopher of this hole pushed up fresh moist dirt and peeked out at the boy, who was certainly a stranger but perhaps not an enemy. Before this miracle had been fully enjoyed by the boy, one of the birds of Ithaca flew into the old walnut tree in the backyard and after settling itself on a branch broke into rapture, moving the boy's fascination from the earth to the tree. Next, best of all, a freight train puffed and roared far away. The boy listened, and felt the earth beneath him tremble with the moving of the train. Then he broke into running, moving (it seemed to him) swifter than any life in the world."

Saroyan's first novel depicts the life of a fatherless family in a small California town during World War II. The main character is Homer Macauley, a 14-year-old telegraph messenger who delivers news of war casualties to grieving families. Despite the hardships and tragedies he faces, Homer maintains his optimism and sense of morality. The novel is a sentimental portrait of the human condition, with themes of love, death, family, and patriotism.

William Saroyan (1908-1981) was an Armenian-American novelist, playwright, and short story writer who won the Pulitzer Prize for The Time of Your Life in 1940, which he declined, and the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for The Human Comedy in 1943. He wrote extensively about the Armenian immigrant life in California, especially in his native Fresno. He was known for his original, irreverent, and optimistic style that celebrated the joy of living despite hardship and insecurity.
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Condition: Very Good/Good. Dust jacket: Moderate shelf wear; on the front, creased at upper edge with open tear at right corner, closed tear at lower right corner; on the back, chipping at upper and lower edges; open tear at head of the spine, taped from inside, and chipped at tail; closed tear at top of the back flap taped from inside; tanning on spine. Black-embossed red cloth cover boards: Light edge wear at head and tail of spine. Bookplate on front paste down. Pages are clean, undamaged, and complete.

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