Recipient of the 1966 Tanizaki Prize, it has been called Endo's supreme achievement" and "one of the twentieth century's finest novels".
Considered controversial ever since its first publication, it tackles the thorniest religious issues of belief and faith head on.
A novel of historical fiction, it is the story of a Jesuit missionary sent to seventeenth century Japan, who endured persecution that followed the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion.
©1966 Shusaku Endo; (P)2009 Audible Ltd
This is one of the most powerful books I have ever read, bar none. With a forward by Martin Scorsese, who writes that he has found this book "increasingly precious" to him over the years and who is adapting the story for film, Endo's masterpiece asks the most profound questions which confront us about the meaning of our existence and of faith, especially the Christian faith. What is the true meaning of agape love? What is the meaning of human suffering and why does God seem to be silent in the face of it? What is the role of Judas in the Christian story and how do we share in his human weakness? Is there any such thing as "universal truth?"
The novel, inspired by actual events, revolves around a Jesuit missionary in 17th century Japan during a period when the Japanese rulers sought to purge their land of Christian influence. Devout Jesuit missionaries who went to Japan knowing of the Japanese crack-down did so fully cognizant, and even welcoming the prospect, of their potential martyrdom. What they did not expect were the much more difficult challenges to their faith presented to them by the Japanese rulers--challenges which ultimately caused some of them to renounce their faith.
Although the issues are most directly presented in terms of the Christian faith, this classic will be meaningful to anyone who puzzled over the deepest questions of our existence.
It is the 1630’s. After several decades of Christianity being welcomed in Japan, a number of Japanese Christians were involved in a rebellion and as a result Christianity was outlawed and forced underground. The story begins with two priests in their early 30’s heading off to Japan to serve as missionaries. About half of the book describes the trip from Lisbon to Japan through the underground missionary activities of the two priests, with the other half describing the experience in captivity.
On the surface the book asks the simple question will the priest stand up for his faith or will he apostatize? Yet, this is a multi-layered story with many more issues at play. At one level there is the question of the relationship of missionary work to the political and economic imperialism of the nations who support the missionary work? At another level is the question of the extent to which any religion, that is part of the culture of a people in one part of the world, can be transferred to a radically different culture and still be the same religion? To what extend do the polarities among Christians and the related in-fighting destroy the credibility of the Christian witness? What does martyrdom mean? What is more Christ- like—to allow innocent people to suffer and die in order for you to maintain the purity of your faith or to act in a way that violates everything that you believe, that is despicable in your eyes and the eyes of your family and friends but will make it possible for the innocent to live? At another level the book asks where God is in the midst of all this suffering and death. It seems that the sound of God’s silence is deafening! Each layer of this tale is as urgent and demanding today as it was in the 17th century, as it was after World War II when this book was written, and as it was in the early Church, when these same questions were being wrestled with by the Church Fathers.
The author is a respected Japanese novelist and a descendant of the ancient Christian community about which he writes in this novel. Thus, be brings a unique perspective to the story and a depth of understanding that enriches the tale.
The narrator speaks with a British accent that lends a certain dignity to the story and for an American audience gives it a sense of foreign mystery that adds to the Japanese setting. He does a good job overall, though in a few places it was difficult to distinguish between shifts from one scene to another.
This is a good book that sets you thinking and is well worth the read/listen.
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
Historic novel about the 17th century persecution of Christianity in Japan and a meditation about the Silence of God - A perfect book to read on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. This is a deeply morally ambiguous novel. It properly de-romanticizes persecution and martyrdom and at the same time explores the role of Judas as a model (not sure that is the right word) for us all. This is a book well worth reading, but I can understand why many are hostile or ambulant about its message.
This is not a book that has an easy message (Christian or not). Where is God in the pain? What does it mean to follow Christ? Can we reject God and love him at the same time.
The audio has some issues that I am not sure are intentional or not. Several times that are audible breathing and sniffing sounds that might be appropriate for the book, but feel out of place. The reader is fine, I am just not sure about the editing.
This wasn't a light read. It's definitely a haunting book that will stay with you for awhile. I will likely have to read it again at some point in my life because it makes some pretty profound points when it comes to claiming to be a religious person.
It tells of an early Christian missionary in Japan at a time when Christianity was banned. The main character was a pious Christian priest and takes us through the ups and downs of believing something with our whole hearts.
An idea that was shared at the beginning of the book and haunted me through the rest was that we all one day come to see us become like Judas. It points out that we need to constantly need to guard our testimonies and that they are a lot more frail that we would like to admit.
Well worth the time but is really heavy.
"Silence" has a Biblical quality to it. I suppose it is the way it raises tremendous difficulties — moral and theological conundrums, and existential crises — and then only subtly, even indirectly, points in the misty direction in which we might find answers for ourselves. This great art, which Scripture does so well, is knowing when to fall silent.
Such silence affects us strongly: it is pedagogically provocative and aesthetically magnetic. It is the silence which challenges us, drives us to reflect upon the "sparks flying upward" and wrestle with an angel in the dark.
When Jesus tells His disciples, "It is better for you that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you," He indicates that His tangible presence is somehow less helpful to us than His intangibility. It is better for us if His presence sometimes seems silence, than if His presence were something we could validate by experiment and sensation.
The striving, the reaching, the 'leap of faith', the crisis which requires us at last to rely purely upon our own subjective, soul-to-soul knowledge of Him as a Person — would we ever exercise ourselves in these if He were always within reach of our fingers or our prayers for fire to rain upon the altar? Thus is the silence of God.
And thus, after the Biblical art of silence, Endo's "Silence" reminds us all at once of Job's apparently senseless suffering, of Abraham's moral crisis, of Jacob's embattled renaming, of Judas' pious betrayal, and of Jesus' Ninth Hour.
But, of course, "Silence" is more about God's silence, than Endo's.
And it is just as much about what it means to really admit that we are weak, that we are not courageous, that we sin — it means to participate, not only in the suffering of Christ, but in the infliction of Christ's suffering.
Indeed, "It is for that reason that I am here," He says to us, as He says to the character Rodrigues. We need Him to suffer for us. He knows this and has come for this very purpose. And it is in this sense that we betray Him, and it is in this sense that He opens Himself to our betrayal: "What thou dost, do quickly."
He comes to our door, in our frightened and guilty times, to tell us that we should make Him our scapegoat. "Trample on me," He says, "I will bear your sin. I came to be trampled of men. I am your lamb. I am your sacrifice. Slay me."
"Lord, I resented Your silence," we say with the priest, when at last we feel we are heard.
"I was not silent. I suffered beside you," He replies, as we learn that this is not a God who wields power like a man, or stays distant and wholly apart.
"Then from the lowest, weakest tone of suffering, up to the loftiest pitch, the divinest acme of pain, there is not one pang to which the sensorium of the universe does not respond; never an untuneful vibration of nerve or spirit but thrills beyond the brain or the heart of the sufferer to the brain, the heart of the universe; and God, in the simplest, most literal, fullest sense, and not by sympathy alone, suffers with his creatures." (George MacDonald, "The Marquis of Lossie")
This was a great story and the narrator did a perfect job with this one. History and religion come to life in this wonderful novel, definitely worth a look.
Stunning, sad, gripping.
When the main character learns that the sounds he is hearing from his prison cell are not the sounds of his guard snoring but in fact the moans of other prisoners.
"How a man comes face to face with God"
This novel follows the journey, literal and metaphysical, of one man, a missionary in 17th century Japan. He realises how human he is, and how inhumane his fellow humans can be. In the end he comes face to face with his own humanity, and in doing so comes face to face with God. Endo reaches the heart of the link between faith and the church. At times I found this novel sad, sickening, disheartening, yet as it progressed it became illuminating, challenging and ultimately life-affirming. A truly remarkable novel, one of the best books I have ever come across.
I highly recommend this audio book; for me, a somewhat complex Catholic, 'Silence' lived up to its reputation as one of the greatest novels of the 20th-century. It is similar in theme to Graham Greene's 'Power and the Glory' but far better. The narrator was excellent, he did countless voices and I felt like I was listening to a radio play. I look forward to Scorsese's coming film adaption.
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