Foreign Studies consists of two short stories and a novella that make up what End considered to be a novel. The first story, “A Summer in Rouen,” draws on End’s own often painful experiences when he was a student in France. The protagonist, the Japanese student Kudo, goes to France to study soon after the end of World War II. The middle-class Catholic family with whom he lives immediately gives Kudo the name Paul (End’s own Christian name) and makes it clear that they consider him a replacement for their deceased son, Paul, who had planned to go to Japan as a missionary. Almost from the outset, Kudo realizes that the family has little knowledge of the Japanese and that he does not fit into his new environment either. This theme of alienation and disparity between the East and the West is repeated throughout End’s early work.
The second story, “Araki Thomas,” concerns the title character, a Japanese Christian who studies in Rome during the seventeenth century. Christianity was spreading throughout Japan until 1587, when the nation’s ruler, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, suddenly reversed his tolerant stance and issued an anti-Christian edict ordering all priests and missionaries out of the country. Araki, a seminarian, goes to Macao and then on to Rome around 1600. There, he is treated with great kindness, but like Kudo, he grows weary of having to put on a forced smile to suit other people’s expectations. Before leaving Rome, Araki learns that twenty-six Japanese have been martyred; the Christians in Rome praise him, as if he were one of the martyrs, because they assume that when he returns to Japan he, too, will remain faithful and become one as well. Araki is asked to...
(The entire section is 696 words.)