“The meaning of the word sevdah in the Turkish language denotes amorous yearning and ecstasy of love, and has its origin in the Arabic expression “säwdâ”, which encompasses and specifies the term “black gall”. Namely, ancient Arabic and Greek doctors believed that the black gall, as one of the four basic substances in the human body, affects our emotional life and provokes a melancholic and irritable mood. There from derives the expression in the Greek language “melancholy” with a figurative meaning of the direct projection of its basic meaning: melan hôlos – black gall. Since it is love itself that causes the same mood, in the Turkish language these terms were brought into a close link with the semantic identity, accomplishing a conceptual result of a dual projection of the basic meaning. Linking these two meanings has opened the process of a poetic transfer of symbolic and emotional qualities from one term to another. This resulted in the birth of a new term related to specific lyrical and psychological features.
In our society, the feeling of love expressed by the word “sevdah”, retaining the basic tone of its emotional commitment has got a melancholic notion of the Slavic-Bogomilian transience of space and time. In essence, our sevdah is both, the passionate and painful longing for love, as well as the melancholic and sweet one, the feeling when you are incapable of enduring the pain caused by love, and the pain transforms into the ecstasy of the intoxication of love that compares to the slow process of dying. Pain, because love cannot be fulfilled at that time, sometimes because space and time act as a wall and obstacle to it, sometimes because there are obstacles of individual, social, familial, traditional or simply emotional and psychological nature. Sevdah expresses itself as torture by others and oneself, and the pleasure of whipping deriving from the identification with the yearning and masochistic experience of love despite the awareness of its futility.” (Muhsin Rizvić, Literary Historian)
“It is not easy to find a single word in English that can stand for the Bosnian concept of sevdah, although yearning perhaps comes closest. Like the Spanish duende, it carries multiple meanings – love, hopeless love, endless love, a desire that chills and fevers the lover like malaria, and like malaria can never be shaken off – but in the end, it’s a way of life, and a narrative that tells the story of itself.” Kim Burton