“We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes…”  Madeleine L’Engle

This quotation from L’Engle brings to mind the concept – or philosophy – of ‘saudade’ – a Portuguese word that some feel defies translation.  This state of emotional longing, quite similar to nostalgia or yearning – though different – in that the longing is for a thing, a place, a person that is absent, a lost loved one – and it may carry a repressed knowledge that the person or thing may never return.   A Portuguese dictionary has defined saudade as a melancholic feeling of incompleteness. Noted in an essay by George Monteiro, the scholar A. Bell’s 1912 definition was offered: “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.”

  As I am writing on this concept – with all the varied interpretations possible – I would enjoy hearing of your thoughts – AND your experiences of what this has felt like to you, or what has evoked this sense of saudade in you.  Send your responses through WordPress or through my email: 

Thank you.




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5 responses to “Saudade

  1. Pingback: Saudade | Rudy Oldeschulte

  2. I do not have a personal story of this longing, but this happens to be a concept I often ponder in humanity.

    In this age of alienation, I am wondering if human beings are not suffering from this longing for completeness, this feeling that something is missing; yet there is not always the knowledge or awareness of what this something is or how to identify it. It only *feels* wrong, or out of place. As such, what kind of effect does this have on the human populace? How does it manifest itself?

    I wonder if some of the behavior of humans, is not contributed to this Saudade and the result is a kind of dissociation from reality, a desire to escape a reality humans do not really understand or have lost touch with.

    • I agree – ref humanity, modern society, missing something. Partly I think of the technological advances – and while this does suggest we have more ‘connection,’ one wonders if we actually do. for me, there’s often that sense of something else, something missing in the communication – feeling if I need to, I can always go back and ‘edit’ the comment…This may not be clear, but it is, as you say, escaping reality, yet not really understanding what it is they are losing touch with…

  3. Pingback: Saudade in literature and music « expatsincebirth

  4. Pingback: Is saudade really untranslatable? « expatsincebirth

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