Shūsaku Endō Biography


(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,...

(The entire section is 551 words.)


(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 hailed as a significant religious novelist by John Updike and Irving Howe, among others. That he has achieved recognition as a devout Christian in a non-Christian culture generally resistant to Western religious philosophy is all the more remarkable., Sh{umacr}saku[Endo, Shusaku]}, Sh{umacr}saku[Endo, Shusaku]}, Sh{umacr}saku[Endo, Shusaku]}, Sh{umacr}saku[Endo, Shusaku]}

After World War II, in which he did not serve because of health problems, End attended Keio University and completed a B.A. in French literature in 1949. A critical period in End’s development as a writer was his postgraduate study in France, from 1950 to 1953, where he came under the influence of such illustrious French writers as Jacques Maritain, François Mauriac, and Georges Bernanos. End’s submersion in European culture intensified his appreciation for Christianity’s moral impact on the West and caused him to conclude that there was a spiritual vacuum in Japan. Chronic heart and lung problems ended his stay in France, and he returned to Japan in 1953 to begin an ambitious writing career.

Between 1953 and 1959 End wrote fiction that chronicled the religious indifference of the East and articulated the widening disaffection between Eastern and Western cultures. Each work in this period, from Shiroi hito (white men), for which he received the Akutagawa Prize, to The Sea and the Poison, dramatizes what End referred to as the Japanese numbness to sin and guilt. Set six months before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, The Sea and the Poison stands out as particularly stirring and harrowing thematically for its exploration of the inhumane operations performed on captured American pilots during World War II and their impact on two young interns.

Directly after this End in 1959 published what may be his most characteristic and perpetually popular novel for Western readers, Wonderful Fool, a comic novel that represents a transitional phase in End’s career, moving him beyond the heavy sentimentality and thin characterization of his earlier work and demonstrating increased versatility as a novelist. Its memorable protagonist, Gaston Bonaparte, a failed seminary student who comes self-appointed as a Christian missionary to Japan, exemplifies the trusting, childlike faith in a transcendent deity that End found absent in his native land.

Because relatively few of End’s lighter, more comic novels and of the many historical and theological essays have been translated, it is possible for some to view him as a rather somber, overly moralistic writer. Certainly, if one only knew End’s...

(The entire section is 1273 words.)