Silence

Shusaku Endo

First Sentence: News reached the church in Rome.

This Japanese classic is set in the seventeenth century at a time when Japan is trying to abolish any trace of Christianity. The ‘news’ that reaches Rome is that Father Ferreira has apostatized after being subjected to torture in ‘the pit’, [essentially being hung upside down so as to bleed slowly to death over a pit full of excrement and human remains]. From here on in the novel is primarily concerned with Portuguese Father Rodrigues  and his journey to and around Japan searching for his former teacher to see if he actually has committed fumi-e; something he does not really believe to be true. I found this book to be quite fascinating, especially the parts where Father Rodrigues is hiding in small villages trying to evade capture, all the time questioning his own faith. It is this doubt which gives the book its title:

Already twenty years have passed since the persecution broke out; the black soil of Japan has been filled with the lament of so many Christians; the red blood of priests has flowed profusely; the walls of the churches have fallen down;  and in the face of this terrible and merciless sacrifice offered up to Him, God has remained silent.

A thought-provoking, entertaining and illuminating read.

* * * *

Last Sentence: These expenses of the funeral were paid out of the money San’emon had left.

Last Sentence explained: Somewhat inevitably Father Rodrigues ends up being captured and imprisoned. In order to get him to apostatize, they torture and kill peasants from the villages he has stayed in, all the time treating him reasonably well. [One memorable death involves attaching two peasants to crucifixes by the sea and leaving them so as the tide comes in just under their chins each evening, and then goes back out again. It takes them several days to die.] If he wants to stop all this suffering he must commit fumi-e. It is in prison also that he finally meets Father Ferreira who has in fact renounced his faith and is living a new life in Japan. In the end Rodrigues does likewise, and is given the name Okado San’emon. [The book ends with a brief appendix which outlines snippets of his new life in Japan, ending with his death.]

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