Anik See, Saudade

Anik See’s Saudade: The Possibilities of Place jumped off the shelf at Watermark, the bookstore in the Toronto airport. Mind you, the clerk wound up taking every copy off the shelf in an attempt to get one to scan automatically. “Um, the price,” I kept saying, “is $18.95, like it says beside the ISBN. Can I just pay that?” Short answer: no. The good people at Watermark don’t trust price tags, and silver print on purple paper just doesn’t scan well.

If I was Anik See, I’d come up with a philosophic, emotionally nuanced essay about what this meant, one that makes your more sensitive reader’s eyes prickle and your more word-hungry reader shake the head impressedly. There might be some predictability to these essays, in the sense that she inhabits so fully the thoughts and emotions that her topics raise for her, but she goes after her subjects wish such wonderful intensity.

The essays in Saudade are set in Cuba, Australia, Georgia (the European kind), even various spots in Canada, and every one of them feels tonight like a place I know, intimately even if not fully. I haven’t gone to these places, I’ll go to very few of them in my life, and I don’t feel the least bit wistful about that. She’s done it for me, and I’m good with that.

The concept of “saudade,” incidentally, is Portuguese: “the feeling of yearning for something impossible to regain because it never quite existed” (p.171). See’s travels are mostly in pursuit of this feeling, or at least she thinks of her travels this way retrospectively. She wants to find this sensation in a particular place, somewhere, but in the end she recognizes that it’ll have to come in Canada, where she has roots and connections and obligations, since it feels wrong to have it where one has “no innate rights” (p.188). I’m kind of wondering about her ideas on Aboriginal land claims, treaty rights, that sort of thing, because my own rights are conditional on there being efforts toward justice in that area.

But perhaps that’s an unnecessary digression.

I’m always so happy when I find a new writer I can add to my permanent wishlist. This book isn’t just full of potential – though it is – but also full of essays jammed with beauty and thoughtfulness. Apparently Anik See’s collection of short fiction is due out in 2009, and I’m totally buying that book. Saudade was fantastic - just fantastic.


Anonymous said…
Germane only to the intro of your post - my sister-in-law tried to buy a tent that she picked off the shelf in a supermarket, the cashier scanned the tent and said that he couldn't sell it because there weren't any in stock. 'But you do have one in stock, namely this one in my hand', and so on. She did eventually manage to buy it but not without much detour via dialogue that wouldn't have been out of place in a Monty Python sketch.

On an unrelated point I see there's a film being made of 'The Road', I was impressed with the film version of 'No Country For Old Men' which was so faithful to the novel that there were scenes that I'd effectively seen before. I doubt that a film of 'The Road' is going to be as successful, so much of what was effective about that was what wasn't said. I hope to be proven wrong.
richard said…
Yes, I'm hoping that movie comes through as well. Such a tremendous book, The Road, so I'm similarly anxious, but there've been some good novel conversions in recent years.

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