June 19th, 2007

Relax!  Grab a Book!

Book 18

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  1. Hardy, Thomas — Jude the Obscure (507 pages)
  2. Lee, Harper — To Kill a Mockingbird (278 pages)
  3. Mann, Thomas (Helen T. Lowe-Porter, transl.) — Death in Venice (73 pages)
  4. Kempis, Thomas à — The Imitation of Christ (165 pages)
  5. West, Canon Edward N. — Outward Signs: The Language of Christian Symbolism (232 pages)
  6. Alexander, Lloyd — The High King (253 pages)
  7. Bellairs, John — St. Fidgeta & Other Parodies (84 pages)
  8. Endo, Shusaku — Silence (300 pages)

Page count: 4,483 of targeted 12,500.

I stumbled across Shusaku Endo's Silence when I was browsing Amazon for Lenten reading back in February. I had never heard of either the author or the novel before, but it sounded like a most compelling read.

Endo was a Japanese Christian who underwent a crisis of faith when he was ostracized in post-World War II Europe. His crisis informs this story of Portuguese missionaries in seventeenth-century Japan who are persecuted for their faith. It's not a happy story, nor does it have much of a plot, as it follows Father Rodrigues' struggles, external and internal, against a world that demands that he apostatize. The priest often sees himself as a modern-day Christ and sometimes as a modern day Judas, and it is this conflict of conscience—am I being true to Christ or a traitor like Judas? was Judas really a traitor or was he simply doing what Christ needed him to do? and if Judas was a traitor, why did Christ take him on as an apostle—which is most fascinating. More subtly, and giving us insight into the author's thoughts about his protagonist, Endo compares Rodrigues to Peter when he denies Christ.

Throughout, Silence reminded me of Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, another powerful story of persecuted Christians faced with doubts and questions about their faith. (Only afterwards did I find out Endo is often referred to as "the Japanese Graham Greene.") Though of necessity heavy on Christian elements, Silence is never preachy and is a work I think could be appreciated by anyone who enjoys introspective fiction, regardless of faith.