D is for Duende

The feeling of profound awe experienced when viewing a piece of art, watching a performance, or listening to music that is deeply moving.


“Duende is not in the throat; duende surges up from the soles of the feet.”

Federico Garcia Lorca


After listening to me talking non-stop about my latest crush, my friend told me that she thought I was addicted to excitement. It took me a while to decide whether to take that as a compliment, but in the end I chose to agree with her wholeheartedly. I am very much addicted to excitement.

By excitement, I don’t mean the thrill that someone might get from bungee jumping or other types of extreme sports. My kind of excitement isn’t that extreme – it’d take quite a lot of encouragement and bribery to get me anywhere near bungee jumping equipment. In my case, excitement comes from experiencing new feelings. Trying things that I won’t be able to do again – feelings that can only be felt once, in particular circumstances.

Most of the time, that feeling comes from art.

There’s something special that comes with reading or watching or just looking at something that someone else has made. Maybe it’s because you can appreciate the effort that was put into the work. Maybe it’s because you just like it. Maybe it’s because, as you read/watch/look at this particular piece, you start thinking: “how on earth did they manage to create this?” That feeling of sheer excitement may just fill you up and choke you – in the past I’ve seen things that amused me to the point I felt as if I were choking up. It wasn’t a bad feeling. Sometimes you need to experience something as extreme as that in order to remind yourself that yes, you can still feel that way.

We all have gone through that phase when we searched on Tumblr for foreign words that would be able to express a certain feeling that our mother tongue cannot convey. Yes. We all did that. Admit it. I still do.

I found this word, Duende, quite a while ago. It’s a word that I keep coming back to – something that I find can be used in many different situations. If I feel inspired and just extremely excited after watching a certain play or musical, I know that it is Duende. If I read something and feel like there is a heavy weight on my chest after closing the book, I know that it is Duende. If I look at a piece of art and find myself enthralled by the lines, by the colors, by the brush strokes, I know that it is Duende. It’s quite lovely to see that the word to express a certain sensation does exist – it means that many other people have felt the same thing and all these people felt the need to articulate that same emotion. I suppose that’s how all words are born, really. Out of the need to express certain universal concepts.

I decided to study my subject, English Literature, not only because I didn’t know what else I’d like to do, but also because I wanted to read more books that would fill me with awe. I wanted to look at more things that would make me appreciate the fact that I could read. I didn’t just want to experience that, I also wanted to understand what it’s about words that can make people feel like this. I think that’s why I’ve gotten into translation more and more. Since I can benefit from being bilingual, I can get the best out of two languages. I can see the beauty in things without having to try too hard. It’s beneficial to me, and I would love to see other people experience what I do.

I don’t have many goals in life because I am one of the least ambitious people you will ever meet. But one thing I know I won’t be able to give up on is contemplating good art. Continuing to read, watch, look at things until I achieve Duende.

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