Mono no aware

Mono no aware translates literally to “the pathos of things” or “a sensitivity to ephemera.” It is a Japanese term for the wistfulness felt because of the passing of time. There is no word like this in English. It’s melancholy tinged with beauty, especially aesthetics in nature: the passing of time marked by seasons, the changing of the leaves, the melting of snow.

  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Toska

Nabokov can describe it better than we ever could. “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.”

  • Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
  • Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  • No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

Flâner

Flâner literally means “to stroll idly,” without any goal or destination in mind. While the word itself is a verb and not so much a feeling, but there’s a certain beauty in strolling along the streets leisurely. It is this feeling we feel when we decide one day to just walk around, and look at the people and the buildings and find the beauty in details we so often miss. It is this feeling Francophiles spend their whole lives chasing.

  • Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
  • This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
  • Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews