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Silence by Shūsaku Endō

Silence (1969)

by Shūsaku Endō

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MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,892523,624 (4.03)2 / 253
  1. 20
    Night by Elie Wiesel (cbl_tn)
    cbl_tn: Both books deal with a crisis of faith resulting from God's silence in the face of extreme suffering.
  2. 20
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel by David Mitchell (Anonymous user)
  3. 10
    Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell (soylentgreen23)
    soylentgreen23: Although not from the same period exactly, Endo's 'Silence' is another great book about the incursion into Japan of foreign culture, this time in the form of the Christian Church, and what happened in Japan when that religion was suddenly rejected by the ruling class.… (more)
  4. 00
    L'Extrémité du monde: relation de saint François Xavier sur ses voyages et sur sa vie by René de Ceccatty (Dilara86)
    Dilara86: Déboires de la Compagnie de Jésus au Japon, du point de vue de François Xavier pour l'Extrémité du monde, et du point de vue d'un missionnaire du XVIIe, Sébastien Rodrigues, pour Silence.

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Earlier this week I read the novel “Silence”, by Shusako Endo, and yesterday I watched the eponymous newly-released movie based on this novel.

Endo’s 1966 novel tells the story of a Portuguese Jesuit priest, Sebastiao Rodrigues, who travels to Japan together with a fellow priest, to find out what happened to their mentor, Father Ferreira, with whom the church had lost contact. This is 17th century Japan, when Christianity is outlawed and Christians are being persecuted by the ruling Shogunate.

Guided by a drunkard and unreliable Japanese Christian, Rodrigues and his partner land on an island off the coast of Kyushu and find refuge in a remote village of hidden Japanese Christians. They witness the hardships these peasants need to endure, suffering torture and death and yet refusing to renounce their faith and apostatize. The Jesuit priests flee from the authorities but are eventually captured and tortured by the local inquisitor. Rodrigues meets Ferreira and finds out what happened to him.

“Silence” here refers to the silence of God. Rodrigues’ faith is tested when he witnesses, again and again, the unbelievable sufferings of these humble Japanese peasants. He cries out for God to intervene but is answered with silence. This silence shakes him to the core and leads to internal struggles and to interesting theological exchanges with his Japanese inquisitors.

The novel is very engaging and the movie, directed by Martin Scorsese, is a faithful representation of the novel. At almost 3 hours long, and given its content, it is not an easy movie to watch. But reading the novel first helped, because knowing the story ahead of time allowed me to focus on the acting and the filmography. At times I felt as if I was watching a painting rather than a movie.

Earlier this month I visited Kyushu for the first time, and witnessed firsthand the Christian legacy in Japan. I was introduced to this painful time in history through the memorial for the 26 martyrs on Nishizaka hill in Nagasaki, and the artifacts from the Shimabara Rebellion at the local castle (an event which triggered the brutal repression of Japanese Christians depicted in the novel). Endo’s book and Scorsese’s movie both resonated strongly with me after this visit. ( )
  ashergabbay | Feb 11, 2017 |
Searing epistolary novel of a Portuguese priest's spiritual torment during the days of persecution of Christians in 17th century Japan. ( )
  janerawoof | Feb 10, 2017 |
Interesting novel written in the form of letters from a priest in Japan to his superiors. In each letter he appears to become more distraught with his beliefs and as much as he loves his religion he is not sure if he has the strength to hold up against torture. His inner turmoil is the heart of the story. How his story ends is not unexpected. ( )
  joannemonck | Feb 5, 2017 |
For me, this book started a bit slow. It took me a chapter or two for the story to capture me. But when it did, I was pulled into the struggle of Father Sebastian Rodrigues. With a sense of righteous duty and an ardent love for Christ, Rodrigues and another priest, make the arduous journey from Rome to Japan. There, the meet with the persecuted Christians and work to unite and comfort them. But they are betrayed by another character, and the Japanese authorities begin the long process of torturing Rodrigues.
Here is there the story gets raw and gritty. Rodrigues watches the suffering of those who stay faithful to God, watches their pain and hears their prayers, and wonders why God stays Silent. And it is the Silence of God that permeated the story. The very question the Psalmist asked: Why does God let the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer? A question that every Christian has asked, every Christ-follow wondered at, every person who watches a loved one suffer. Where is God? Why is He Silent? The ending left me raw and open. There is no answer to the question. We are left to wonder, as Rodrigues wondered, left to hold a faith in the face of Silence. ( )
  empress8411 | Feb 3, 2017 |
I really wanted to like this book but came away disappointed. My hope was to experience a meditation on the nature of silence. What was written on that topic was mostly, well, silent - - with minor exceptions.

The bulk of the work seems to be a novel approach to a catechismic parable. The story mostly lacks a humanistic sense of character in favor of a fictionalized history of mission work in a foreign land.

This work may have been ground breaking for its time but I found myself nonplussed by the novelization, except for the character Kichijiro who's frailties lack sufficient depth of investigation by the author.

I did not experience this tale with the joy of reading great literature, nor is the theology particularly sophisticated. And so the work doesn't seem to stand the test of time for great literature. The work does bare the mark of an interesting piece of writing and cultural investigation for its time (written in the mid 1960s). But I posit the metaphorical ruminations on silence are barely plumbed. Meanwhile the historical investigation into the parochial barriers of Japanese cultural hegemony through the point of view of the Catholic missionaries are stilted. There are far more readable, intriguing and, simply, better works available to fans of literature. Silk by Baricco and Heart of a Samurai by Preus to name just two. ( )
  bikesandbooks | Jan 29, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shūsaku Endōprimary authorall editionscalculated
Johnston, WilliamPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnston, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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News reached the Church in Rome.
"This country is a swamp. . . . Whenever you plant a sapling in this swamp the roots begin to rot; the leaves grow yellow and wither."

--Cristóvão Ferreira
"They twisted God to their own way of thinking in a way we can never imagine. . . . It is like a butterfly caught in a spider's web. At first it is certainly a butterfly, but the next day only the externals, the wings and the trunk, are those of a butterfly; it has lost its true reality and has become a skeleton. In Japan our God is just like that butterfly caught in the spider's web: only the exterior form of God remains, but it has already become a skeleton."
--Cristóvão Ferreira
It was not against the Lord of Chikugo and the Japanese that he had fought. Gradually he had come to realize that it was against his own faith that he had fought.
How many of our Christians, if only they had been born in another age from this persecution, would never have been confronted with the problem of apostasy or martyrdom but would have lived blessed lives of faith until the very hour of death.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0800871863, Paperback)

"Silence I regard as a masterpiece, a lucid and elegant drama." Irving Howe. -- The New York Times Review Of Books

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:52 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Sustained by dreams of glorious martyrdom, a seventeenth-century Portuguese missionary in Japan administers to the outlawed Christians until Japanese authorities capture him and force him to watch the torture of his followers, promising to stop if he will renounce Christ.… (more)

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