Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Silence by Shusaku Endo

A lot of times when listening to a moving or beautiful song, I get goosebumps. I can't recall a book giving me the goosebumps before.

This book gave me goosebumps.

This is one of the most profound books I've read in a long time. Maybe because I read a lot of commercial fiction, or because so few books go to the very deepest and hardest questions about life and faith and suffering. It's not the kind of book I could read everyday, at the same time, I still feel the story inside of me. The questions the book made me ask and the truths it forced me to consider are not easily dismissed from my consciousness. It's the kind of book that tells a story and embedded within that story are extra rich morsels that must be pulled out separately and savored. Single sentences shoot beams of understanding and fragment into contemplation within my mind. It's that kind of book.

Japanese history fascinates me. I find Japanese history to be rich and varied and different from American history in so many ways. The history of Christianity in Japan especially stands out as so very complex, unfortunate, and enthralling in my mind. So much so, that I made a special trip to Nagasaki by myself with the single purpose of seeing the hill and memorial where the twenty-six martyrs were crucified. (if you ever get the chance to go to Japan, though, you should definitely go to Nagasaki. It's very beautiful and there are many sites of historical interest) This book deals with that very intense time period and the journey of one Portugese priest in Japan.

Father Rodrigues goes on mission to Japan following rumors that a well loved priest and mentor has apostatized under pressure of torture. Upon his arrival, he is at first enamored with the glory of matyrdom, but as the actual suffering and death of Japanese Christians takes place before his eyes, he slowly begins to question where God truly is in all of this and why He is so silent at the death of his saints.

I really don't want to say a whole lot more than that, but I do encourage you to read this book if you get the chance. It's a heavy topic and a literary book and its conclusion may make you uncomfortable. But at the same time, its exactly the sort of book that those of us living in a comfortable Western world should read and keep in the forefront of our minds.

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