Shusaku Endo (1923–1996) was born in Tokyo, graduated from Keio University, then studied in Lyon, France. A famous contemporary Japanese writer, he won many major literary awards. In 1982, he was elected to the Japan Arts Academy. He also received honorary doctorates from a number of American universities.
Eleven short, deeply spiritual stories ranging from autobiographical serendipities to solemn, empathetic parables. The title story is set during the 18th-century Shogunate persecution of Christians in Japan and was the basis for Endo’s book Silence. Shusaku Endo is the winner of the Akutagawa prize (the Japanese equivalent to the Pulitzer) and his books have been widely translated. Martin Scorsese is currently working on a film adaptation of Silence.
Here gathered in this small volume are five of the great Japanese writer Shusaku Endo’s supreme short stories exemplifying his style and his interests, presenting, as it were, Endo in a nutshell. "Unzen," the opening story, touches on the subject of Silence, Endo’s most famous novel––that is the torture and martyrdom of Christians in seventeenth-century Japan. Next comes “A Fifty-year-old Man" in which Mr. Chiba takes up ballroom dancing and faces the imminent death of his brother and his dog Whitey. In "Japanese in Warsaw" a business man has a strange encounter; in "The Box" an old photo album and a few postcards have a tale to reveal. Finally included is "The Case of Isobe," the opening chapter of Endo’s wonderful novel Deep River.
Available: June 01 2000
The Samurai, without doubt one of the late Shusaku Endo’s finest works, seamlessly combines historical fact with a novelist’s imaginings. Set in the period preceding the Christian persecutions in Japan, The Samurai traces the steps of some of the first Japanese to set foot on European soil. Rokuemon Hasekura, a low-ranking warrior, is chosen as one of Japan’s envoys to the Viceroy of Mexico and Pope Paul V. The emissaries set sail in 1613, accompanied by an ambitious Franciscan missionary who hopes to bargain trading privileges with the West for the right to head his order in Japan. The arduous journey lasts four years, and the Japanese travel from Mexico to Rome, where they are persuaded that the success of their mission depends on their conversion willy-nilly to Christianity. In fact, the enterprise has been futile from the start and the mission returns to Japan where the political tides have shifted: the authorities are pursuing an isolationist policy and a ruthless stamping out of all Western influences. In the face of disillusionment and death, samurai Rokuemon’s only support and solace come from the spiritual lord he is not even sure he believes in.
Available: April 01 1997
The river is the Ganges, where a group of Japanese tourists converge: Isobe, grieving the death of the wife he ignored in life; Kiguchi, haunted by war-time memories of the Highway of Death in Burma; Numada, recovering from a critical illness; Mitsuko, a cynical woman struggling with inner emptiness; and, the butt of her cruel interest, Otsu, a failed seminarian for whom the figure on the cross is a god of many faces. In this novel, the renowned Japanese writer Shusaku Endo reaches his ultimate religious vision.
Available: June 01 1996
Prefiguring themes of his later work, the acclaimed Japanese writer Shusaku Endo here writes of choices made by young adults learning who they are and what they want in life. Yoshioka Tstomu is a student, not much interested in his studies, short on cash and long on sexual desire. Eventually he will settle down in a career and marry his boss’s niece. Yet he begins to hear a voice in his head that sparks a memory of Mitsu, a plain, naive country girl he once took callous advantage of during his college days. The episode meant nothing to him at the time; to her it meant the world. Yoshioka’s future is assured and conventional. Mitsu, on the other hand, takes quite another path, making a Christ-like commitment to take upon herself the suffering of others.
Available: November 01 1995
The novel The Sea and Poison won the Akutagawa Prize when it was published in Japan in 1958 and established Shusaku Endo in the forefront of modern Japanese literature. It was the first Japanese book to confront the problem of individual responsibility in wartime, painting a searing picture of the human race’s capacity for inhumanity. At the outset of this powerful story we find a Doctor Suguro in a backwater of modern-day Tokyo practicing expert medicine in a dingy office. He is haunted by his past experience and it is that past which the novel unfolds. During the war Dr. Suguro serves his internship in a hospital where the senior staff is more interested in personal career-building than in healing. He is induced to assist in a horrifying vivisection of a POW. "What is it that gets you," one of his colleagues asks. "Killing that prisoner? The conscience of man, is that it?"
Available: April 01 1992
The arresting beauty of Shusaku Endo’s fiction is best known in the West through his highly acclaimed novels The Samurai and Silence. His consummately wrought short stories, with their worlds of deep shadows and achieved clarity, are less familiar. The dozen stories of Stained Glass Elegies, selected by the author together with his translator, display the full range of Endo’s talents in short fiction.