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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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My parents, who emigrated from rural Portugal in the early decades of the twentieth century, were never disdainful of their Portuguese heritage. That, undoubtedly, has much to do with my continuing interest in pursuing the facts and figures of Portuguese-American culture. There is also something else, though. I have spoken Portuguese for as long as I can remember. In fact, my first words, I was told, were spoken in Portuguese, though my English could not have come much later.

Being functionally bilingual (and thus in many ways bicultural) has always been comforting to me, never a cause for embarrassment or difficulty. Yet, to borrow a phrase from the novelist Henry James, it has also been a “complex fate.” For the fact is that Portuguese emigrants, their American-born children, and even their later descendants share, to some extent or other, two countries and sometimes two sets of cultural and family history. If the Portuguese are no different from other national or ethnic groups in this regard, the specifics of those cultural and family histories are their own. Through essays and occasional talks I have tried to say some things about those specifics.

Of course, There’s no Word for Saudade reflects, as it must, my personal mindset of interests, attitudes, and issues. Since I have always chosen to write about those matters that have piqued my interest, I have not tried in any way ← ix | x → to cover the range and scope of Portuguese-American culture, a...

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