Silence by Shusaku Endo

Silence

What thou dost do quickly.

This phrase that Jesus spoke to Judas Iscariot at The Last Supper haunts seventeenth-century Catholic priest Sebastian Rodrigues in Shusaku Endo’s mesmerizing novel, Silence.  Rodrigues travels from his native Portugal to Japan to spread Christianity and investigate the rumors that a revered teacher has aposticized, or denied his faith, at the threat of torture from Japanese officials.

He hides with other Japanese Christians in small villages by the sea.  As they are betrayed by a friend, Rodrigues is imprisoned and witnesses the horrific torture of those who have helped keep him hidden.  While in prison, he discusses the religious conflict and  cultural conflict of the East and the West with his prison guards and the magistrate in charge of the torture, all the while, wondering why God remains silent throughout his ordeal.

As both Japanese and Catholic, Endo manages to create an odd respect between Rodrigues and his captors.  While these ideas were fascinating, the personal thoughts of Rodrigues as he waivers between faith and doubt in the face of human cruelty were even more intriguing.  From God’s seeming silence, Endo paints a spiritual journey that is less contemplative and more harrowing.

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