of novels and the Japan of history portray a people concerned mostly with
the moment: Have I been rude? Was my question improper? Did XYZ honor
or shame my family? Whether these temporal and terrestrial questions arise
from the country's history of Bhuddism and Shintoism, in which prayers
requested help for today rather than the distant future, I'm not certain.
I just know that this is just the way it is. And there's nothing wrong
Of course, that didn't stop
the Catholic church from proselytizing in fifteenth and sixteenth century
Japan, a theme explored several times to great success by Sushaku Endo,
himself a Catholic convert at the age of 11. His masterpiece, The Samurai,
tells the story of a low-ranking samurai and an ambitious Fransiscan priest
sent abroad to explore trade options with other countries. A series of
unfortunate events of course follows, culmination in the execution of
both who, at the end of the day, simply wanted to do the right thing but
failed to fit in anyway. Kind of like Christ.
So Shusaku's project is this:
Finding out where Christ, or those like him - the beautiful loser - fits
in Japan. He finds in his characters a humanity other Japanese writers
do not, at least to the Western reader; he searches within them for their
own search for meaning, for purpose, for morality. He is empathetic to
them as well, but does tell it like it is. If his protagonist is persecuted,
or is goofy, then so be it. But he challenges the reader to find goodness
of a character others do not.
I think the man is a genius.
A fabulous writer. His combination of Japanese and Christian sensibilities
allows the reader to understand the conflict of the human condition better
than any Bible story can, because he can view them and unpack them from
two points of view. If you've not read any Japanese literature yet, I
would recommend that you start with Shusaku. -ed.