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  • Silence

    I was wondering if anyone else has read Silence by Shusaku Endo ? It`s the one that is based on the diaries of priests who came over here about 500 years ago and about Christianity in Japan. I`m not at all religious but I thought it was one of the best books I`ve read here, especially their first impressions of the land and people which were so suprisingly similar to my own. The torture descriptions gave me nightmares, so well described. Anyone else read this? I

  • #2
    I haven't read "Silence" but....

    I've got another one of his books called "The Samurai" which is about the first Japanese person to visit the West.

    To be honest, I've had trouble getting into it but Endo certainly has a lot of talent. I think I was expecting something like James Clavells "Shogun" but his style is quite different.

    He writes a lot about Christianity in his work, but I don't think you need to be religious to enjoy his novels.

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    • #3
      I think he is a Christian himself isn`t he? I haven`t come across anything else by him, I`ll look out for that. I really recommend Silence, it`s quite short too so manageable, guess I`m thinking any book with the word Samurai in it is really long? It`s good because he uses diaries of the portuguese preists, or one in particular and blends it in to a story, much like Black Rain by Ibuse, another fantastic read...

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      • #4
        "The Samurai" isn't that long, but it has a slow start. One of those books you have to stick with I guess.

        I almost put both the "Lord of the Rings" and "Dune" down, they took so long to start but am glad I didn't (great books). Shogun however, I got into straight from the start. Short attention span I guess (should be reading comics )

        I'll be on the look out for "silence". Im really trying to keep my reading up, but its so hard to motivate myself to read sometimes, especailly now I don't have to take the train to work.

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        • #5
          Yep, the urge to read kind of comes and goes doesn`t it? I couldn`t read a thing for one year after my degree, no books, mags, newspaper even, I was so sick of reading!

          But have just got back into it. I think the gruesome parts of Silence kept me going, people being boiled alive, turned upside down with cuts behind their ears dripping blood, it`s a good un... Really though it was just bizarre for example one of the priests in his diary is commenting on all the horrible insects, Japanese poeples teeth and style of eating, going to the loo anywhere with no discretion, made me laugh out loud quite a bit as things haven`t changed in all this time...

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          • #6
            Endo

            Endo was indeed a wonderful writer, anyone who has read "Silence" could not easily forget it.
            There is an interesting article on a museum opened in his honour at:
            http://www.hugopublications.com/endo.html
            He wrote many books but not all are available in English.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Don Simons
              Endo was indeed a wonderful writer, anyone who has read "Silence" could not easily forget it.
              There is an interesting article on a museum opened in his honour at:
              http://www.hugopublications.com/endo.html
              He wrote many books but not all are available in English.
              He is indeed. Thanks for the link, was interesting, would love to pop down to Nagasaki for that...

              Shame not more have been translated (yet), I`m glad to see there are a few of them in the library though, I was a bit worried when I first got here only to find Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre and Hollywood Wives type books in the book shops!

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              • #8
                I read the book in one breath. It is very interesting but at the same time difficult to endure - I felt as if I saw images from the movie "The Passions of Christ" again and again - with all the graphic descriptions of the suffering, tortures, sentencese, betrayals and damnations the Christians in Japan had to undergo.

                It was interesting for me to learn that in the beginning it was very easy for the missionaries to disseminate Christianity in Japan - Japan was one of the most favourable countries in Asia for spreading of the new religion, the population converted quite readily and in guick time there were 200,000 - 300,000 new christians in Japan. The explanation for that of the author is because the life of the peasants was so miserable, unbearable, poor and tough, because they lived and died like animals in feudal Japan, they needed the idea of a human and merciful God who can give them hope and faith to survive the hardships and the promise of Heaven after life. So they quickly embraced the idea of God and Jesus. But the Shogun who first favoured the Chrisian missionaries because of the trade with the West, soon changed his mind as he saw a threat for Japan by the foreign countries (somebody explained to him that the missionaries usually prepare the way for the foreign invading armies), so Christianity was outlawed and the missionaries persecuted, the Japanese Christians were forced to renounce their religion or they were killed.

                The tortures were extremely painful - people were tied on wooden poles stuck in the sea so when the tides came, they drowned or were exhausted to death; they were burned, put in hot sulpher water, boling water was poured over them continuously, they were hanged head down in pits full of dirt, thrown in the deep sea tied with heavy objects, even children were not spared the tortures - some of them renounced their faith and were released, some of them died in the tortures without reonouncing the religion.

                But the question is if God saw the awful suffering so many people had to endure in his name - why was he silent and allowed this to happen? And if there is no God, what was the meaning of the lives of so many priests - did not so many people die because of their activities and teaching?

                Also questions like this what is wise are very important - to die faithful to God or to apostate but continue to live? Is it not wiser to continue to live?

                One sentence that impressed me were the words of one of the samurais to the captured priest: "imposing Christianity on Japan is like the persistent unwanted love of an ugly woman." - so unwanted and foreign was christianity to this land...

                The book speaks a lot about religion, the dilemma whether to betray one's faith and survive or to accept the tortures and die as a martyr; the priest who is the main character is often compared to Christ and the Japanese guy who betrayed him - Kichijiro - is compared to Judas. It was interesting to learn about the persecutions of the Christians in Japan in the early 17th century but also it was very interesting to read about the daily life of the ordinary people - the high taxes they had to pay to their lords, the peasants produced rice but did not eat rice - only potatos, beans, roots and salty fish, they were poorer than the poorest people on Portugal at that time and their life was completely in the hands of their lords.

                I have read a similar book in the Bulgarian literature - it is about the Islamization of the Rhodopes mountains in Bulgaria where the Christian population was put to unbearable inhuman tortures and threats by the Turkish army in order to change their religion. Some people changed their religion because there was no other way to survive and preserve the tribe and the author does not accuse these people - if people just think that God is just one and the same, it does not matter whether it is Muslim or Christian. But the main question is the silence of God...if he exists.
                Last edited by Tristesse; 2007-01-23, 02:55 PM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by batwoman
                  I was wondering if anyone else has read Silence by Shusaku Endo ? It`s the one that is based on the diaries of priests who came over here about 500 years ago and about Christianity in Japan. I`m not at all religious but I thought it was one of the best books I`ve read here, especially their first impressions of the land and people which were so suprisingly similar to my own. The torture descriptions gave me nightmares, so well described. Anyone else read this? I
                  This is a great book about the times of Japan starting to close to foreign countries. This behaviour of Japan was actually provoked by the competing foreign powers for influence in Japan. Dutch people were constantly spreading rumours in the ears of the Shogun that the Protugese wanted to invade the coutnry though Roman Catholic Chirtsianity and the other way round. Everybody, Netherlands, Portugal, Britain were trying hard to speak badly of each other rivals for superiority in Asia. And finally the Japanese got pissed with everybody and closed the country. The governors in Japan decribed these countries as noisy quarrelling concubines trying to gain the love of the man Japan.

                  Also, the thing that struck me mostly is that the author says that even Christ would have apostated and thrown his faith away and trampled on the fumie if he had seen the tortures of the Christians in Japan.

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