shanghai saudade

This past April, Machado went back to Shanghai for the first time since 1946, accompanied by her husband, her daughters, and her grandsons. She’d avoided the visit for five decades, thinking it would be “too painful,” that she’d be reminded of the war or, worse, of how all her close family members had either passed on or been scattered around the world without her ever seeing them again. “Tears were running down my face,” she says, when she visited her old apartment in a beautiful Art Deco building fallen to ruin. The Catholic church she’d attended was just a façade; the nave had been gutted and turned into offices for the Communist Party. Still, she loved the life and spirit of the new Shanghai and returned home to Long Island inspired enough to paint a guest room in the theme of what she’d seen and to redo one of her gardens in the Chinese style, complete with manicured dwarf maples and custom-made moon doors. And the pain, well, it didn’t feel like pain, exactly. “In Portuguese you call it ­saudade,” she says. “It means a kind of longing and a love that still remains, that every once in a while when you think about it, it is with nice memories. It’s a missing. The other word in Portuguese that is similar is lembranças. Memories. They’re both beautiful words.”

“I didn’t think of myself as good-looking at all: China Machado’s many beginnings,” by Jada Yuan, New York Magazine, Aug 14, 2011

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