Good writing, great story.
Originally published in 1966, then in translation in 1969, this book has gained recent popularity due to the release of the feature film of the same name. This fictional account of the life of a Jesuit priest in 1640’s Japan is a story that depicts the battle between religious faith and doubt. The “silence” of the title refers to God’s presumed silence to the suffering of the protagonist and those that by association are persecuted by Japanese authorities. The conflict the protagonist faces is both internal and external. The underlying irony of this story is twofold with the protagonist viewing his mission in Japan at first as truly righteous. He does this even in the face of his former mentor and the Japanese authorities pointing out that he is an outsider presuming that he knows what is best for the Japanese by preaching about salvation and in doing so leading those that follow to persecution and death. The other irony which is not overtly mentioned is that although the priest is condemning the Japanese for their persecution of Christians in Japan at the same time in Christian Europe heretics were being persecuted for not adhering to what was thought as the right form of Christianity. Although this book is set in Medieval Japan it is not an overly historic work. One learns more about this time period by reading Clavell’s Shogun in comparison; however this is not the point of the novel. It is instead an internal religious discussion by the writer for readers to understand what it means to worship and have beliefs that are not shared by the majority and considered intrinsically foreign. Silence by Shusaku Endo forces readers to confront how they may have given up their beliefs or ideals in order to conform and survive and get ahead in society. (Submitted by Shane)
Previous to reading this book, I saw the two major films based upon it. The first by Masahiro Shinoda; the second by Martin Scorsese. Each films offers something different to their viewers, each being a different sort of film, but the book, written by Shusaku Endo, is a whole different beast. While some ideas are perhaps better explored in the film versions (idolatry in Shinoda's film and personal-faith in Scorsese's), the overall depth of Endo's book is unmatched. But, no matter what medium the story exists within, the story of Silence is difficult, disturbing, and though-provoking. Is the book heretical, or faith-affirming? Can it be both? Does Endo tap into something core to Christianity, or does he miss the point entirely? I'm of the opinion that he finds something at the center of Christian doctrine -- the idea of firm and true salvation, from which nothing can separate us -- yet it is so disguised behind a troubling exterior that most will never see it.
"This is a movie about turning your back on the Lord," I was told.
I think this book (and the movies based on it) are far more complex than this. Distilling this story down to this point misses the nuance and gut of the story. Faith is difficult to distill, because it is so elusive in so many ways. Endo, thankfully, did not write a simple story about faith, but about a man whose faith is tested and falling apart.
Do I agree with everything this book presents from a theological level? No, not at all, yet the book stirred my soul and my mind in an extraordinary way. This is a powerful and incredible book.
I watched the movie adaptation first and it made me borrow the novel from the library. It is a very readable book although lengthy. No doubt it being a translation made it more accessible because it is free from lofty prose and sticks to plain language which is all that is required for a book so character driven. Although this is a novel about finding and understanding faith there is this deep sadness entwined throughout that rings of despair. Maybe it is because the author is expressing his alienation from his own culture because he has adopted a religion which is considered foreign. The foreigners in the novel adopt the manners and customs of their new home with more resignation than love. It is adapt or die for them and Endo's description of this struggle is at the heart of this story. Although Endo tries to steer the conversation to favor the foreigners he describes events in such an even handed way we still have room to decide for ourselves if Japan was right to persecute outsiders to preserve their indigenous culture.
Martin Scorsese made a film of this a few years ago which has sparked renewed interest in this novel by Japanese writer Shusaku Endo, who was the rare Catholic in a mostly Buddhist country. It's the story of Portuguese missionaries in 17th century Japan, and it is intensely religious, but not so much that it can't be appreciated by those who simply like good books. Endo's other major novel is "Volcano."
Endo's 'Silence' is a modern classic and a must-read for theologically-inclined Christian readers. (I suspect non-Christian readers will find the character's central choice much less interesting but will still enjoy a well-written historical fiction.) Endo's prose (and Johnston's translation) is efficient and effortlessly successful, a mammoth task for a novel of such depth.
Ultimately the genius of this work is it's tremendous staying power in lieu of a decision: it lingers for days or weeks until the reader evaluates the protagonist's central choice and puts the matter to rest. This amounts to a serious and profound moment for those who read and contend with this book.
Although based on real historical figures, this is a historical fiction book, with interesting detail about the introduction of Christianity, specifically Roman Catholicism, in 17th century japan. There is also a lot of debating of catholic dogma, with focus on the problems of evil in the world and faith versus human compassion. I found the lengthy theological discussions excessive. I much preferred the livelier exposition of similar topics in Emmanuel Carrere's "The Kingdom".
Intense, thought provoking and worthwhile. It'll be interesting to see how the movie survives a 3rd or (or 4th), translation.
Powerful story of the Japanese repression of Christianity through the internal struggle of an evangelizing Catholic Portuguese priest coming to Japan. The book gives lots to ponder about. There are strong historical parallels to the British repression of Catholicism in Ireland.
Questions raised by this book are timeless - what is faith? why does God answer/not answer me? is martyrdom required? is mine the only true religion? what is the true religion? do I believe the same as others? are converts really converts?
The Jesuit Father Rodriguez is sent to Japan to minister to the secret Christian converts whose very lives are in danger from the Japanese rulers anti-Christian decree. Thus starts his journey of faith. He is captured and must apostatize but can he? His captor is Inoue, a Japanese who was a convert and became a priest but is now an inquisitor. Very thoughtful and thought-provoking.
There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.
There are no summaries for this title yet.
There are no notices for this title yet.
There are no quotes for this title yet.