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“Unzen” by Shusaku Endo

“Unzen” by Shusaku Endo


Today, the new Sunday term has begun. Thank you all so much for joining my course! We read and discussed “Unzen” by Shusaku Endo. His most representative work is “Silence”, which was turned into a movie by Martin Scorcesse. I saw the film and quite liked it. Above all, I was impressed by the acting of Yosuke Kubozuka, who played Kichijiro, the apostate. “Unzen” was written one year before “Silence” was published. The themes are exactly the same.

Shusaku Endo went to Manchuria when he was 3 because of his father’s job (banker). Due to the divorce of his parents, her mother brought him back to Kobe, where he was baptized. He majored in French literature at Keio University and also went to Lyon to study abroad. He won the Akutagawa Prize for his first work “White Man” and the Tanizaki Prize for “Silence”. The writer he respected the most is François Mauriac, a Novel laureate. Endo himself translated “Thérèse Desqueyroux” from French into Japanese.

The main themes he tackled in his life were Christianity, apostasy, and morality. The short story of “Unzen” tells us the difficulty to define “true” Christians. Can we really say that people who are forced to apostatize, not of their volition, are not Christians? Who has the right to judge whether someone is a Christian or not? Also, isn’t there a hint of pride and egotism behind the concept of martyrdom?

Still, the protagonist in the story thinks to himself: there must be something of consummate value missing in the argument of pride and egotism. Is it a faith, a sense of belonging, or self-sacrifice? Is it something inexplicable and otherworldly? Endo seemed to be looking for this something of consummate value in religion throughout his life.

I bought “Thérèse Desqueyroux” the other day, which Endo very much cherished. It has been added to my TBR list for November.

Next week, we are going to read and discuss “The Flower-Eating Crone” by Fumiko Enchi. She’s a great female author and internationally famous. I’m looking forward to it!

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