Shūsaku Endō Additional Biography


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Shsaku End, the future Catholic convert and prominent writer, was born in Tokyo, Japan, on March 27, 1923. Four years later, his parents moved to Dairen, a city in southern Manchuria. Six years later, End’s mother, a domineering woman, left her husband and returned with End and his elder brother to Japan. She, together with her family, took up residence with her Catholic sister in Tokyo. After his mother became a Catholic convert, End was persuaded, at the age of eleven, to be baptized in the Catholic faith. For a long time, however, he felt uncomfortable with this foreign religion. To him, as Van C. Gessel has written, Catholicism felt like “an ill-fitting suit of Western-style clothes,” which he attempted through his future writing “to retailor into native Japanese attire.”

Pleurisy kept End out of World War II. Later in life, he was often hospitalized for respiratory ailments, culminating in the removal of a lung. His hospital experiences often figure in his fiction. In 1945, he entered Keio University in Tokyo, a prestigious private institution, where he majored in French literature. In 1950, he went to France, the first Japanese to study abroad after the war. There, he attended the University of Lyons, specializing in French Catholic authors such as Paul Claudel, Mauriac, and Bernanos. In Europe, End hoped to recover from the “anguish of an alien,” which he had felt since his religious conversion. His entry into an environment in which...

(The entire section is 573 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Shsaku End was born on March 27, 1923, in Tokyo, Japan, but he spent his early years in Dalian, Manchuria. After divorcing his father, End’s mother took her two sons back to Tokyo and, with her sister, converted to Catholicism. This religious conversion was the single most important event in End’s life, since he and his brother soon followed her in accepting the Catholic faith. Though he little understood at the time what a momentous decision he was making, and though he wrestled in his later youth with doubts about his own commitment to Christianity, the adult End eventually embraced fully this Western faith.

After he graduated from the Japanese equivalent of high school, End enrolled at Keio University at the age of sixteen, studying Catholic philosophy. Unable to serve in the armed forces during World War II because of his poor health, he continued his education there in French literature, taking his B.A. in 1949. Eventually, End became one of the first Japanese to study in Europe after the war, attending the University of Lyons in France from 1950 to 1953, studying French Catholic writers Jacques Maritain, Georges Bernanos, and François Mauriac. His submersion in European culture intensified his appreciation for the impact of Christianity on the West and forced him to recognize the spiritual vacuum in Japan, which made belief in a transcendent deity difficult, if not impossible.

Chronic heart and lung problems prevented End from...

(The entire section is 412 words.)