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There's No Word for «Saudade»

Perspectives on the Literature and Culture of Portuguese America


George Monteiro

There’s No Word for Saudade contains twenty-one essays aimed at a readership interested in cultural and historical materials, including those related to Portuguese America. Significant figures covered include John Dos Passos, Charles Reis Felix, Julian Silva, John Philip Sousa, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, James Merrill, and the Azorean John Francis, businessman, patron, and friend to the fabled Provincetown Players. Concluding essays scrutinize and judge the phenomenon of the Portuguese movie in the 1930s and 1940s, and trace the history of the tricky but persistently present Portuguese concept of saudade.
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Chapter 7. Hostage to Fortune


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“Not Born to Be Happy” (subtitled “A Journey Through Darkness”) by Francisco Cota Fagundes, tells a remarkable story. Not because its subject, a father’s account of the illness, treatment, and the forever shadowed afterlife of his son, breaks new ground. Not because it changes or transforms the genre—“illness memoir”—to which the author so rightly assigns it. Not because of its forthright, succinct, and wonderfully efficient prose. Not because it is deeply felt and so emotionally charged that it threatens to explode into angry rant but somehow miraculously does not do so. It is remarkable because it sublimely conveys beauty in the poetry of its form and texture even as it engenders frisson and inspires terror in the reader.

“Hostages to fortune” is how Francis Bacon viewed the social and spiritual burden of children. Forged to Bacon’s formulation is every caring parent’s desperate and depressing fear, that he will outlive his children, a fear that is reified and intensified in a child’s every illness. Think now of the nature of the gravest of such illnesses. Is there a greater blow to a parent’s sense of himself and his family than a diagnosis of cancer?

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