Friday, November 25, 2011


8. Rua da Saudade

"Saudade is essentially untranslatable to any other language. No other language, not even Spanish, carries with it the same fixed load of cultural baggage--although Spain does come close with its empire that collapsed under its own greed for gold and silver, as well as the nocturnal emissions of Napoleon, and was finally blown away as the final straw when Teddy Bull Moose Roosevelt charged up San Juan Hill.

In Spanish there is the word "añoranza", but it doesn't have the same blue-hearted heaviness of "saudade", nor does "nostalgia" in English. Throw in "yearning" and a big dose of fantasy and maybe you're getting warm, as "saudade" is just as much yearning for a past that never existed as for one that did. One can have "saudade", for a love affair that was nothing but a day dream.

When I first saw the cut-stone sign, Rua da Saudade, on the end of a house between the Alfama and the Sé (cathedral), it appeared that the street was only one house long! Talk about truncated dreams. Then I consulted my map, courtesy of Yellow Bus, and discovered that no, it is longer, that Rua da Saudade actually turns the corner and heads uphill to the Castle of St. George.

For me, it would have been more poetically just at one house long, but considering Portugal's unrelenting saudade for the days of empire--to the point that it even translated the seat of power to one of its colonies, Brazil, for awhile, I suppose all routes of saudade may well lead to the castle. In the same way that all roads in the empire once led to Rome, and that King Arthur's Camelot myth even changed countries and prevailed, briefly, in the 1960s in Washington DC, until its forever young king's head was blown apart in the backseat of a slow-moving convertible in Dallas, TX, 48 years ago.

48: The age of the alter-ego Ricardo Reis when his creator Pessoa died, his age when Saramago takes him up and turns him loose in Lisbon to pack in as much saudade as he can stand until the spirit of Pessoa pulls his plug.

But that's another winding street to explore later.

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