Shortlist year: 2019

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: Giramondo Publishing

A coming-of-age story set in Angola in the period leading up to the colony's independence, Saudade focuses on a Goan immigrant family caught between complicity in Portuguese rule, and their dependence on the Angolans who are their servants. The title speaks to the melancholy longing for homeland that haunts the characters, and especially the young narrator. Suneeta Peres da Costa's novella captures with intense lyricism the difficult relationship between the girl and her mother, and the ways in which their intimate world is shaken by domestic violence, the legacies of slavery and the end of empire.

About the author

Suneeta Peres da Costa

Suneeta Peres da Costa

Suneeta Peres da Costa was born in Australia to parents of Goan origin. She has published and produced widely across the genres of fiction, non-fiction, playwriting and poetry. Her novel Homework was published by Bloomsbury in 1999, and her long-awaited novella Saudade was released with Giramondo in March 2018. She is the recipient of numerous literary fellowships and awards, including a Fulbright Scholarship and the BR Whiting Studio Residency in Rome.

Judges’ comments

Suneeta Peres Da Costa's—Saudade— is a beautifully conceived story told from the perspective of a young Goan migrant who lives with her family in Angola during the last years of Portuguese occupation. The author's eye for vivid and telling details evokes the African setting in all its colour and richness. A sensitive portrayal of the narrator's developing consciousness and her sense of uncertainty about her place in the world, the narrative explores the themes of displacement and belonging on an intimate level, through her relationships with her mother, the more distant figure of her father, and the family's servant, Caetano. Beyond these personal relationships, it develops a nuanced understanding of the workings of race and class within a complex colonial society. Saudade is notable for the gorgeous fluency of its prose style. Its moving story is told with an elegance and concision that exemplify the virtues of the novella form.