J. Thomas Rimer
The perhaps too-often discussed "conflict of East and West" that began in Japan in the nineteenth century, and to which the atomic bomb made the most horrendous of contributions, finds a strong reflection in Endō's personal life. He was brought up a Catholic, an Easterner with a Western faith. Such a dual heritage troubles him…. (p. 252)
The confrontation he feels between these two ways of life and thought have naturally found their way into his fiction, notably in Chinmoku (Silence)…. In Silence, Endō sets up an aesthetic distance from his material not of twenty but of over three hundred years, in order to observe the first clashes of sensibility between East and West. The sources for his novel … are largely factual: he examines the lives of several Portuguese Catholic priests who continued to serve as missionaries to Japan after the promulgation of the edicts banning the Christian faith early in the seventeenth century. The protagonist of the novel is an amalgam of several of these men, to whom Endō gives the name Sebastian Rodrigues; he comes to Japan to work with the secret Christians, mostly poor farmers and fishermen. (p. 253)
Rodrigues … is portrayed in considerable roundness and depth…. Endō shows a most unusual ability in creating a non-Japanese character who is both credible in psychology and understandable in motivation. The novel is at least partially intended as an examination...
(The entire section is 599 words.)