There is a word in Portuguese - "saudade" - which has no exact equivalent in any other language. It is a combination of deep longing and nostalgia, but also more. Many Portuguese have tried to capture it in poetry and literature, but it's not easy to convey the meaning of such a deep-seated part of the culture. It is something beyond words. Fado music, sometimes called Portuguese blues, comes closer than anything to expressing this untranslatable word.
One English author described it almost a century ago: "In a word saudade is a yearning: yearning for something so indefinite as to be indefinable: an unrestrained indulgence in yearning. It is a blend of German Sehnsucht, French nostalgia, and something else besides. It couples the vague longing of the Celt for the unattainable with a Latin sense of reality which induces realization that it is indeed unattainable, and with the resultant discouragement and resignation."
It is perhaps rooted in the combination of three cultural inheritances that have come together in the Portuguese people, suggests Barry Hatton in The Portuguese: "the Celtic lyrical dreamer prone to poetic expression and religious sentiment; Faustian anxiety from the German bloodline (Visigoths and Suebi); and Arab fatalism." It is influenced by the Age of the Discoveries, the rise and fall of the Portuguese empire, and the winds of the Mediterranean and Atlantic that have carried the Portuguese to the far corners of the earth and brought intercontinental influences to their shores. Thus whatever saudade is, it most definitely is very Portuguese. A playwright of the Spanish Golden Age satirically wrote of the Portuguese:
A Portuguese who was weeping
was asked why
He replied because of his heart
and that he was in love.
To ease his pain
he was asked with whom he was in love.
He answered: Well, nobody,
I'm crying from pure love.
Whether acknowledged or not, this bittersweet sentiment exists deep within the soul of all human beings. Have we not at one time found ourselves gazing wistfully at a distant horizon, while at the same time turning our searching eyes within…seeking what? Perhaps better than any other people, the Portuguese have come to embrace and live with this constant experience of "saudade," and so they also understand that it is something to be meant to be felt, not talked about.
Embodying saudade in this way is portuguese artist Salvador Sobral. Through his jazz-inspired interpretations of poetry, and particularly in his recent award-winning performance of the song Amar Pelos Dois, Salvador Sobral has gifted us all with an immersion into the depth of emotion called Saudade.