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July 16 , 2008


The Possibilities of Place


Beside me, on the stone steps of this quiet courtyard, there is a lame man – the sweeper. He is so thin that the end of his belt comes back around to its buckle. He’s trying to feed a puppy the rest of his lunch. He reminds me that we all need something to need us, and that maybe that’s why we Westerners, who are so independent, mostly fail to understand family in this way, and need to come up with things like ‘quality time’ to justify such a base need. Everyone here asks if my family is in Sri Lanka, if that’s why I’ve come here. When I say no, they’re back in Canada, this confuses them. It’s a black mark against me. Why would I leave them? I am a selfish person. (I am.)

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The Portuguese word saudade has no direct English translation. In its simplest sense, it describes a feeling of longing for something that is now gone, and may yet return, but in all likelihood can never be recaptured. In Saudade, traveller Anik See traces her attempts to reclaim this loss in a series of informal essays that take us from the salt plains of Wood Buffalo National Park and the mountains of British Columbia to the fishing ports of Sri Lanka and the rough roads of Tbilisi, Georgia.

Whether at a fishfry in the Northwest Territories, at the post-9/11 Canada-US border, on the ultimate road trip through Australia or at a summer carnival in Santiago de Cuba, See is on a continual quest for simplicity, interrogating the perceived distance between privilege and want. Quietly, insistently, these thoughtful essays ask what we might accomplish if we said no to entitlement; if, instead, we used our privilege to help us better understand human nature. Throughout this psychogeographic diary, crowded with rituals of faith, death and renewal, See asks, again and again, 'How much will be enough?'

Praise for Saudade:

'Anik See's Saudade is often disturbingly brilliant. It reassures me that much of our experience of the world is still undescribed. Saudade is fresh and utterly original.' - Jim Harrison

'See's meditations on loss, technology, design, and borders are like long-exposure photographs: richly textured, dreamy, observant of even the slightest movement.' - GLOSS Magazine

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