Silence was one of those books that had been waiting to be read in my library for a long time, and I didn’t want to read it. I thought this book would make me depressed and very upset. I was wrong in my predictions. While reading it, all I thought was that religion is nonsense, and so many people died in vain. However, Shusaku Endo is a good author, and Silence is one of the books that I am glad I read.
Silence tells the story of the Portuguese priest who went to Japan to spread Christianity, and how the ban of Christianity in Japan and how Christians were systematically forced to reject the religion afterwards. But most of all, it is about God’s silence, despite all the cruelty. We are listening to the story from the Portuguese priest Rodrigues.
Departing from Portugal with a missionary friend, Rodrigues arrives secretly in Japan, the country that was forbidden to them after an arduous journey. With the help of the Christian Japanese who secretly practice their religion, they try to survive under challenging conditions in Japan, while at the same time they want to have a clear knowledge of Father Ferreira’s situation, their teacher who came to Japan before them. Rodrigues heard that the priest Ferreira renounced Christianity, married a Japanese woman and changed his life completely. However, the priest Rodrigues, who is devoted to his teacher, has difficulty believing this and consistently states that he will not accept these accusations without seeing the truth himself.
Priest Rodrigues and Francisco Garrpe part ways after the Japanese village that helped them was under constant pressure and set out to find Christians from different parts of the country. Before long, the priest Rodrigues, whom we listened to the story from, is caught by being betrayed, and after that, the book gains a little more momentum because the tortures and interrogations begin.
The priest, who sees people being tortured to death everywhere he goes, questions why God has remained silent in the face of so much torture. He doubts his faith and fights with himself. The full weight of the book is in this part. Of course, it was not easy to read about the torture of people, but our topic is God’s great silence in the face of these tortures and deaths. The book shines here.
I haven’t read much about Christianity in Japan before I read Silence. However, after I finish the book, I did a quick research and discussed the subject with my Japanese friend. As mentioned by the priests in the book, Christianity seems a bit of a makeshift. Nowadays, only 1% of the population in Japan are Christians. Although Shintoism and Buddhism are the two dominant religions, more than half of the population does not belong to any religion. However, as the Japanese are very keen on church weddings (not for a religious reason but the aesthetic of it), they usually get married there.
I thought of a humorous article I read before, explaining how those who want to spread Islam to Japan will deal with the discovery that the Japanese cannot pronounce the letter L. (The Japanese use the letter R instead of L.) So, Allah becomes Arrah, and the story ends.
Silence is a good book. If you are going to read it, I suggest you first examine why Christianity was banned in Japan. It would be great if you also take a look at the life story of the author Shusako Endo. After finishing the book, I would say watch the film with the same name, which Martin Scorsese adapted to the cinema in 2016. Enjoy!
It is 1640 and Father Sebastian Rodrigues, an idealistic Jesuit priest, sets sale for Japan determined to help the brutally oppressed Christians there. He is also desperate to discover the truth about his former mentor, rumoured to have renounced his faith under torture. Rodrigues cannot believe the stories about a man he so revered, but as his journey takes him deeper into Japan and then into the hands of those who would crush his faith, he finds himself forced to make an impossible choice: whether to abandon his flock or his God.
The recipient of the 1966 Tanizaki Prize, Silence is Shusaku Endo’s most highly acclaimed work and has been called one of the twentieth century’s finest novels. As empathetic as it is powerful, it is an astonishing exploration of faith and suffering and an award-winning classic.
Endō Shūsaku, (born March 27, 1923, Tokyo, Japan—died Sept. 29, 1996, Tokyo), Japanese novelist noted for his examination of the relationship between East and West through a Christian perspective.
Endō became a Roman Catholic at age 11 with the encouragement of his mother and an aunt. At Keio University he majored in French literature (B.A., 1949), a subject he studied from 1950 to 1953 at the University of Lyon in France. His first collections of fiction, Shiroi hito and Kiiroi hito (both 1955; “White Man” and “Yellow Man”), indicate the direction of most of his later fiction: they contrast Japanese and Western experience and perspectives. In Umi to dokuyaku (1957; The Sea and Poison), he examines the Japanese sense of morality in a war story about Japanese doctors performing a vivisection on a downed American pilot.
One of Endō’s most powerful novels, Chimmoku (1966; Silence), is a fictionalized account of Portuguese priests who traveled to Japan and the subsequent slaughter of their Japanese converts. This novel and Samurai (1980; The Samurai)—a fascinating account of a samurai’s journey on behalf of his shogun to open trade with Mexico, Spain, and Rome—are considered his best writing, showing the complexities of the interactions between cultures as well as presenting a supple and well-told narrative.
Endō’s other extended fiction includes Kazan (1959; Volcano), Kuchibue o fuku toki (1974; When I Whistle), Sukyandaru (1986; Scandal), and a number of comic novels. He also wrote short stories, drama, essays, and a biography.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: