Saudade: Our Favorite Kind of Sadness


Earlier this week, Sophie was chatting with a pal about Great Lady Troubadours of Sadness. Astrud Gilberto (who’ll be familiar to many as the voice that made The Girl From Ipanema famous) came up in the conversation, and Sophie remarked that if they liked Astrud, they might also be interested in other Brazilian artists whose work embodies saudade, which, like other Dames favorite hygge, is a sort-of translatable concept from another culture that we would like to build awareness of. Saudade doesn’t have a snappy, single-word analogue in English, so here are a couple of descriptions: The concept has many definitions, including a melancholy nostalgia for something that perhaps has not even happened. It often carries an assurance that this thing you feel nostalgic for will never happen again. My favorite definition of saudade is by Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo:

a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy.

-- Saudade, An Untranslateable, Undeniably Potent Word (also a great episode of Alt.Latino, NPR’s Spanish & Portuguese-language music podcast)

The Portuguese call it saudade; a longing for something so indefinite as to be indefinable.  Love affairs, miseries of life, the way things were, people already dead, those who left and the ocean that tossed them on the shores of a different land — all things born of the soul that can only be felt.” -- Anthony De Sa, quoted in George Monteiro’s essay “An Anatomy of Saudade”, which includes many other definitions of the term.

This kind of bittersweetness resonates powerfully with your Dames, especially at this time of year when dried-out Christmas trees line the tree lawns awaiting garbage day but it’s still nearly fully dark by 5 pm. If saudade seems like a thing you’d be into, here is a very quick & dirty starter pack. Please DO hit us up with some recommendations & refinements of the definitions we’re using & examples we’re providing!

Music: Astrud GilbertoMaria BethaniaCesaria EvoraExplosions in the Skyearly Magnetic Fields and their noted influencers, certain 1960s Girl Groups songs (especially "Remember (Walking In The Sand)", by the Shangri-Las).

Movies: Wes Anderson’s movies all have their moments of saudade, especially Grand Budapest Hotel and The Royal TenenbaumsAlmost Famous also gets a big, big nod. And it also suits one of Margaret's underrated favorites, Celeste and Jesse Forever, to an absolute positive T.