Silence (novel)

Silence (novel)

Infobox Book |
name = Silence
title_orig = Chinmoku
translator = William Johnston

author = Shusaku Endo
country = Japan
language = Japanese
genre = Historical fiction
publisher = Taplinger Publishing Company
release_date = 1966
english_release_date = 1969

nihongo|"Silence"|沈黙|"Chinmoku" is a 1966 novel of historical fiction by Japanese author Shusaku Endo drawn from the oral histories of Kakure Kirishitan and Hanare Kirishitan communities in Japan. It is the story of a fictional Jesuit missionary sent to seventeenth century Japan, in the time of Kakure Kirishitan ("Hidden Christians") that followed the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion. The recipient of the 1966 Tanizaki Prize, it has been called "Endo’s supreme achievement" [ "Shusaku Endo’s "Silence"] by Luke Reinsma, "Response" of Seattle Pacific University,Volume 27, Number 4, Autumn 2004] and "one of the twentieth century’s finest novels".PDFlink| [ "We Have Never Seen His Face"] |121 KiB by Brett R. Dewey for the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, 2005, p. 2] Written mostly in the form of a letter by its central character, the theme of a silent God who accompanies a believer in adversity was greatly influenced by the Catholic Endo's experience of religious discrimination in Japan, racism in France and debilitating tuberculosis. [Dewey 2005, p. 3]

Plot summary

Young Portuguese Jesuit, Sebastião Rodrigues, is sent to Japan to succor the local Church and investigate reports that his mentor, Fr. Cristóvão Ferreira, has committed apostasy. Fr. Rodrigues and his companion Fr. Francisco Garrpe arrive in Japan in 1638. There they find the local Christian population driven underground. Security officials force suspected Christians to trample on "fumie", which are crudely carved images of Christ. Those who refuse are imprisoned and killed by "anazuri" (穴吊り), being hung upside down over a pit and slowly bled. Those Christians who do step on the image in order to stay hidden are deeply shamed by their act of apostasy. The novel relates the trials of the Christians and increasing hardship suffered by Rodrigues, as more is learnt about the circumstances of Ferreira's apostasy. Finally, Rodrigues is betrayed by the Judas-like Kichijiro. In the climax, as Rodrigues looks upon a "fumie", Christ breaks his silence:

Yet the face was different from that on which the priest had gazed so often in Portugal, in Rome, in Goa and in Macau. It was not Christ whose face was filled with majesty and glory; neither was it a face made beautiful by endurance to pain; nor was it a face with strength of a will that has repelled temptation. The face of the man who then lay at his feet " [in the fumie] " was sunken and utterly exhausted…The sorrow it had gazed up at him " [Rodrigues] " as the eyes spoke appealingly: "Trample! Trample! It is to be trampled on by you that I am here." [Shusaku Endo, Silence, trans. William Johnston (New York: Taplinger, 1980), pp. 175-6]


"Silence" received the Tanizaki Prize for the year's best full-length literature. It has also been the subject of extensive analysis. [ [ "Suffering the Patient Victory of God: Shusaku Endo and the Lessons of a Japanese Catholic"] by Brett R. Dewey, "Quodlibet": Vol 6 Number 1, January-March 2004] William Cavanaugh refers to the novel's "deep moral ambiguity" due to the depiction of a God who "has chosen not to eliminate suffering, but to suffer with humanity." [ [ "The god of silence: Shusaku Endo's reading of the Passion - critique of the Japanese novel 'Silence'"] by William T. Cavanaugh, "Commonweal", March 13, 1998] Endo, in his book "A Life of Jesus", states that Japanese culture identifies with "one who 'suffers with us' and who 'allows for our weakness'", and thus "With this fact always in mind, I tried not so much to depict God in the father-image that tends to characterize Christianity, but rather to depict the kind-hearted maternal aspect of God revealed to us in the personality of Jesus." [ [ "The Christology of Shusaku Endo"] by Fumitaka Matsuoka, "Theology Today", October 1982, p. 295]

In May 2007, American film director Martin Scorsese announced his intention to shoot a film based on the book in summer 2008. [ "Next for Scorsese: 17th-century Japan"] by Angela Doland, "Associated Press, 24 May 2007] The Internet Movie Database states the expected U.S. release date as 2010. [ [ "Silence (2010)"] , Internet Movie Database (accessed 12 June 2008]

The novel inspired Symphony no 3 "Silence", composed in 2002 by Scottish musician James MacMillan. [ [,,2276530,00.html "BBCSSO/Runnicles"] by Rowena Smith, "The Guardian, 28 April 2008]

ee also

*Christian martyrs
*Urakami Cathedral

External links

* [ 2008 Beatification of Japanese Martyrs.]

References and notes

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