Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Review: "Silence" by Shusaku Endo

Silence by Shusaku Endo is a better than average novel on Christianity from a very unlikely source that deals with a time in history I was not even aware of. Not to be offensive, but I did not know there was a large population of Japanese Christians that existed, let alone enough to warrant the horrific events described in this novel to be perpetrated on them. For that, Endo is a very unique novelist, bringing Western ideals to the fiction about the Far East, much like his fellow countryman Haruki Murakami, but unlike Murakami, Endo prose style and focus is purely Japanese, and at times it makes this novel a little dense and hard to follow, especially once the story reaches its climax in a prison. But luckily this is a short book, only a shade under 200 pages that packs quite a punch, whether you are religious or not. The story follows a Portuguese priest, Father Rodrigues, who is sent on a mission to a remote Japanese island to spread the gospel, as well as find out the truth about fellow priest, his mentor Father Ferreia, who has supposedly committed apostasy. Once there, his two companions soon die and he is tricked by a Judas-like character named Kichijiro, and is thrown in jail. Facing torture, he must also commit apostasy by stepping on a fumie, a primitive religious painting, in order to survive. This book acts as a great argument for the qualities of faith when faced with insurmountable odds when you are entirely alone. This is evidenced by the ending, which I thought at first came off as too bleak and downbeat, but showed the power of faith in a world that is entirely too pragmatic. If you can get past the dense, sometimes overwritten prose, this novel is a real eye-opener.
Rating: 5/5

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