The Final Martyrs
Best known in the West as the author of the novel SILENCE (1969), currently being filmed by Martin Scorsese, Shusaku Endo has, in this collection, reaffirmed his position as a master of the short story as well. Leisurely in narration and tone, Endo’s stories focus on his most common theme— specifically, the conflicts that arise from being a Catholic in a non-Christian country and generally the conflicts that arise from being a spiritual being in a fallen world. All eleven of these stories are moral examinations and exempla dealing with spiritual commitment, guilt, cowardice, bravery, and transcendence.
The title story is perhaps the best example of the exempla form. Set in the seventeenth century during the time of persecutions of early Japanese Christians, it centers on Kisuke, a giant of a man— clumsy, ineffectual, and easily frightened—who denies his Christianity for fear of being tortured. Unable to bear the Judas guilt of his actions, however, he returns and redeems himself.
Several of the stories are autobiographical in that the narrator is a novelist like Endo himself who ruminates on the meaning of his observations and experiences and who, also like Endo, tries to face increasing age and impending death with some grace. Although stories such as “The Last Supper” and “The Box” deal with Christian themes of forgiveness and salvation, they do not do so in an overtly didactic way; rather, they center on ordinary men caught...
(The entire section is 340 words.)
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