Eternal Terms for Sadness


Toska
Toska – noun /ˈtō-skə/ – Russian word roughly translated as sadness, melancholia, lugubriousness.

No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.
Vladimir Nabokov, cited in ‘A Field Guide to Melancholy’ by Jacky Bowring

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ORHAN PAMUK

ISTANBUL

AND THE CONCEPT OFHUZUN:

According to Orhan Pamuk, the melancholy of Istanbul is huzun, a Turkish word whose Arabic root (it appears five times in the Koran) denotes a feeling of deep spiritual loss but also a hopeful way of looking at life, “a state of mind that is ultimately as life-affirming as it is negating.” For the Sufis, huzun is the spiritual anguish one feels at not being close enough to God; for Saint John of the Cross, this anguish causes the sufferer to plummet so far down that his soul will, as a result, soar to its divine desire. Huzun is therefore a sought-after state, and it is the absence, not the presence, of huzun that causes the sufferer distress. “It is the failure to experience huzun,” Pamuk says, “that leads him to feel it.” According to Pamuk, moreover, huzun is…

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