Foreign Studies Essay - Critical Essays

Foreign Studies

The first story, “A Summer in Rouen,” recounts a visit to France shortly after World War II by a Japanese student named Kudo. The Catholics who house and try to befriend him manage only to dehumanize him through their misunderstanding both of the East and of Catholicism with a Japanese setting. Speaking to a gathering about the increase of believers in Japan, Kudo knows that more converts do not “necessarily imply progress” and that the evangelical success owes more to Japanese postwar uncertainty than to missionary zeal. In the face of his hosts’ self-satisfaction, he remains deferential and silent.

Dividedness over religious commitment also unifies Endo’s second story, entitled “Araki Thomas.” Related as a brief fictionalized biography of Araki Thomas, an aspiring priest studying theology in seventeenth century Rome, this story explores Araki’s pull toward personal safety and apostasy as the persecution of Christians mounts back in Japan. Endo’s novella, “And You, Too,” set in France in 1965, presents the growing alienation of Tanaka, a Japanese scholar researching the Marquis de Sade for a doctoral dissertation. Insecure over news about his academic post in Japan, his inability to master Sade’s life and works, and his own failing health, Tanaka eventually despairs at the impossibility of his goals. The final chapters reveal the sad shrinkage of body and spirit. Endo’s metaphor of illness and suffocation for the Japanese abroad begins with Tanaka’s meeting a fellow Japanese enfeebled by tuberculosis; later, he himself ebbs and starts coughing blood, “maybe through an inability to endure something Western which had flowed into his body.” Endo adds a useful introduction that comments on these works in relation to his more recent writings.