Very Compact Theory on Longing

In Very Compact Theory on Longing, Vinicius Jatobá describes the pain of having lost something – or someone – loved that can never be retrieved. He performs a reading of his text, exploring the geography of feelings encompassed by the Portuguese term »saudade.«

Vinicius Jatobá originally wrote Very Compact Theory on Longing to be read and discussed at the Festival Sehnsucht at Literaturhaus Stuttgart. The text deals with the Portuguese term »saudade« – which can only inadequately be translated as »longing.« It describes a nostalgic melancholia, the pain of having lost something beloved forever, a form of backward-looking longing that can never be satisfied.

Unfortunately, Festival Sehnsucht had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The feeling of longing for something that has gone or that has never even taken place might be familiar during these times. Jatobá’s text helps us to remember that this longing is not inherently negative: It encompasses pain and grief, but also joyful memories.


and then they sit down

and then she sits down in the dark and the memories she cares to embrace aren’t the ones haunting her and gripping her and as she in the darkness longing to forget before her ultimate absence whatever painful wounds afflicting her days and nights she fights in the dark to warmly capture what is tender to be seen and what is silky to be heard so she could tell the tale of her life & times to any future loving gaze that might sit down with her in the dark to listen

and then he sits down in the attic with an old album of photographs filled with the faces of old friends that he hasn’t seen for a long time but in the stream tide dreams that carry him through his insomniac nights and whose names are now at the moment he sat down in the attic more muted music than letters and words so much are his friends inhabitants of a black & white world that their eyes are pebbles confiding treasures they found exploring maps they invented and with such diamonds they bought the moon

and then they sit down to have dinner and they’re now young and so candid in their hearts that they secretly resent the years living in the same city when they still hadn’t met each other as they’re in love and belong together and without speaking they already played out in their minds their future dinner decades in the making where they will forget everything but the first smile and gaze and touch they ever had not so long ago but decades in the past for their older selves as they imagine it will happen while they sit down to have dinner

and then they sit down together in the backyard of their house that is their fortress of half a century and the sun is so honest that they believe without saying that everything will be alright and so the blue sky is fresh and the forecast of rain was wrong as all pessimism is wrong on such a sunny day when all the flowers are embracing the butterflies to the generous grace of all their petals as your lips are darling and the wind’s perfume has smooth fingers that tune a sweet song chord to your beautiful smile my love and then she thinks that it was not so bad to marry him

and then he sits down at the kitchen table to write a letter to his mother wishing her the foremost happiness in all her years to come but just after carving down the words years to come on the paper his pencil weighed as a mountain range because there were not so many years to come and the river was dry and the inclement calendar indifferent to all so many usurpers of what is never to be forgotten and the cliff of the next sentence inescapable full-stop made him abandon writing at the kitchen table like his efforts to scare the sand slick around the tides of any new second

and then she sits down in front of her dressing table and looking steadily at herself in the mirror she falls deeply for a tiny glimpse of her dear long-gone grandmother discovered in her own eyes lepid there as if after decades of hide-and-seek she decided to eagerly reveal herself and suddenly so much of the afternoon’s perfume of cakes and juices and tall stories invaded her bedroom but she could no longer dance and she feared immensely until the wrinkles around her mouth reminded her of her undefeatable father and she’s once again in front of her dressing table the bravest of all

and then they sit down


The festival was supported by the Innovation Fund of the Ministry of Science, Research and Art Baden-Württemberg, in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation Baden-Württemberg, the Akademie Schloss Solitude, and the atelier am bollwerk.