Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Vocabulary (Litost and Saudade): Concept Words that Captures the Ethos of a Culture


I was first introduced to the word litost by Milan Kundera in “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting”.  Litost is a Czech word with no equivalent word in English, which means “a state of torment caused by a sudden insight into one’s own miserable self”. It’s almost too much to have such a succinct way of describing a sentiment that could haunt you for a while, that I loved it.

On a similar hue, here’s another from the Portuguese: saudade. Again, no equivalent word exists in English, but Wikipedia explains it as: “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.” The feeling of saudade is everywhere in Portugal. Once a great empire with a rich history of commerce and tales of explorers, the evidence is captured in its museums and parks. Punctuating the land marks are vacant office spaces and tagged walls from a depressed economy. You can experience all these elements simultaneously today listening to fado (a Portuguese music genre, comes from the Latin word meaning fate) at any number of bars that line the streets of Lisbon.

Photo: A young street musician with his doggy sidekick collecting donations


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This entry was posted on July 12, 2015 by in Culture, language, Vocabulary and tagged , , , , .
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