Saturday, December 22, 2012

"The Final Martyrs" by Shusaku Endo. ****

  • Part of year long read of Endo's works on LibraryThing. com
  • Originally published 1959
  • Japanese author
  • From Foreword by the author:
    • "...a good deal of time passes between the point when I drive the chisel into the block of ice and the moment when I can first sense that my characters have begun to move."
    • "...even a character who appeared only once in a short story waits now in the wings, concealed by the curtain, for his next appearance on-stage."
  • Quotes:
    • p.129..."Sometimes as I look into the mirror, I think this face must be what in Buddhism is called the 'face of dark delusion'.  A world where I search for salvation but have yet to discover the light; .....". 
    • p.130..."The appropriate level of darkness and the appropriate clamminess in the room provide me with the same feeling of liberation as that of being in my mother's womb." - describing his ideal writing environment
  • Interesting ideas:
    • room size is described by number of mats.....i.e. a "four-and-a-half mat room"
    • his description of death anxiety mirrors mine exactly!!
  • Review:  The themes in these stories included Endo's usuals:  Catholicism in Japan, martyrdom, loyalty, aging, facing mortality, parental conflict, and disappointment in the frailties of humanity.  The foreword to this collection was written by the author.  He indicates that many of the characters went on to be featured in his novels.  He also confirmed that much of his writing is autobiographical, which adds an interesting layer to the understanding of the themes.  Frankly, I think Endo is a very good writer, but was clearly driven to seek resolution to his own philosophical, spiritual, and personal issues.  Consequently, his plots, characters, and themes are repetitive, more so than other authors, in my opinion.  So, just read a couple of novels and you will be satisfied without being frustrated.

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