I first read about this word in Brainpickings, and I fell in love with it. So I looked up the word. The more I read about it, the more in love I was. Head over heels. Obsessively. Could not get it out of my head. I was smitten with a word (it’s possible!).
Apparently named among the most beautiful words in the world, and in the list of most untranslatable word, and rightly so, there is this vagueness about this word, yet a very concrete awareness of that feeling. What struck me about the word (or my understanding of it) was that it had a pure emotional quality to it – one that cannot be put into words or cognitively understood.
Many have tried though, and in poignant ways too. Some of my favourite musings about this word include:
This idea of incompleteness on this blog called “Expat since birth”
Saudade can relate to the feeling of nostalgia or melancholy (melancolia in Portuguese), in which one feels an interior satisfaction because it is impossible to find something, but one never stops thinking that one is searching for it. It is an incompleteness that one unconsciously wants to never completely resolve
Or this beautiful poem, about a longing for the future with a nostalgia for the past on a blog by Djibouti Jones:
The past is so tangibleI know it by heartFamiliar things are never easy to discardI was dying for some freedomBut now I hesitate to goI am caught between the promiseAnd the things I know(Sara Groves “Painting pictures of Egypt”)
This very vivid image-inducing description on the Sarah Wilson’s website:
I can conjure this feeling. This kind of love is so potent and melancholy that it lingers. It’s a love that lunges forward in anticipation, but with nothing to meet it, it can only keep reaching out further. This brings a doubling of emotion. Plus a sense of aloneness out there in the ether, forever reaching for love.
Or the definition by the Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo, which is so often quoted along with the meaning of Saudade:
“a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy”
My favourite though is the use of the word while describing what it means to be Portuguese:
“The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.” (In Portugal, by AFG Bell, 1912)
The story of this story project and this word:
The very first time I read it though, I immediately knew that this project (which was initially temporarily titled “All the in-betweens”) had to be called “Saudade”. Not just because this word is so intolerably beautiful, but something about it just felt right.
While Saudade | the story project isn’t so much about love or nostalgia in the strict sense of the terms, the characters in the story go through their own kinds of Saudades; a longing for a sense of completeness through sharing of soulpieces through intimacy. I tried to put this down in better words, but only have this poem instead. Hopefully, that would give some hint about what Saudade is about. If not, well, there will always be the story of Iesha and Ayaan…