Shūsaku Endō Biography

Start Your Free Trial

Download Shūsaku Endō Study Guide

Subscribe Now


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The second son of End Tsunechisa and Iku, Shsaku End (ehn-doh) was born in Tokyo, Japan, on March 27, 1923. He was taken to Dalian in Japanese-occupied Chinese Manchuria when he was three. When his parents divorced in 1933, he returned with his mother to Kobe, Japan. End Iku converted to Catholicism, and at the age of eleven, under family pressure, Shsaku joined the Catholic Church and took the Christian name Paul; he was taunted by schoolmates because he was a Christian. In 1943, End entered Keio University but left shortly to work for the war effort. Returning to the university in 1945, he studied French literature and graduated in 1948. While there, he published several articles, including “Kamigami to kami to” (the gods and God) and “Katorikku sakka no mondai” (the problems confronting the Catholic author).

In 1950, End was among the first Japanese to study abroad following World War II. In France, he studied the work of various French Catholic writers, first at the University of Lyons and then in Paris, but in February, 1953, illness forced him to return to Japan.

End published two novellas, Shiroi hito (1954; white man), which won the thirty-third Akutagawa Prize, and Kiiroi hito (1955; yellow man). In 1956, he taught at Jochi (Sophia) University, a private Catholic school. Umi to dokuyaku (The Sea and Poison, 1972) for which he received the Shinchosha Prize and the Mainichi Culture Prize, followed in 1957. In 1959, End published the novel Obakasan (Wonderful Fool, 1974) before returning to France to gather materials for a study of the Marquis de Sade. Again, tuberculosis forced his return to Japan, where he was hospitalized for almost three years. During that time, however, he published Kazan (1959; Volcano, 1978). End then published the novels Watashi ga suteta onna (1963; The Girl I Left Behind, 1994), Ryugaku (1965; Foreign Studies, 1989), and Chinmoku (1966; Silence, 1969), and a dramatic version of that novel, Ogon no kuni (pr. 1966, pb. 1969; The Golden Country, 1970). In 1967, he was a lecturer at Seij University before becoming chief editor of the journal Mita bungaku and publishing some short stories. In 1973, the nonfiction books Iesu no shgai (A Life of Jesus, 1978) and Shikai no hotori (beside the dead sea) were published, followed by his novel Kuchibue o fuku toki (When I Whistle, 1979), in 1974.

In 1977, End published Kirisuto no tanj (the birth of Christ), which received the Yomiuri Literary Award, and he garnered the International Dag Hammarskjöld Prize for A Life of Jesus in 1978. He also received the Artistic Academy Award for services to literature. His novel Samurai (1980; The Samurai, 1982) was awarded the Noma Literary Prize. In 1985, End was elected president of the Japan PEN Club, and the next year he published Sukyandaru (Scandal, 1988), which won the Silver Bear Award for Literature at the 1986 Berlin Festival. In subsequent years he received honorary doctorates from Georgetown University, John Carroll University, and Fujen University in Taipei, as well as being selected as a Bunka Krsha (Person of Cultural Merit), one of Japan’s highest honors. His novel Fukai kawa (1993; Deep River, 1994) earned him the Mainichi Cultural Arts Award. In 1995 he was awarded the Bunka Kunsho (Order of Cultural Merit) by the emperor of Japan. End was short-listed for the Nobel Prize in Literature several times.

Plagued by ill health most of his life, Shsaku End succumbed to his final illness on September 29, 1996. He is buried in the Fuch Catholic Cemetery in Tokyo, Japan.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Shsaku End (ehn-doh) was born in Tokyo, Japan, but spent his early years in Dalian, Manchuria. After End’s parents were divorced, his mother returned with her two sons to Tokyo and together with her sister and her sons converted to Catholicism. This religious conversion was perhaps the single most important event in End’s life. He became one of Japan’s most admired and widely read novelists, as well as an important writer for the Christian Western world, where he has been...

(The entire section is 1,824 words.)