All the salient qualities that distinguish the superb work of Japanese writer Shusaku Endo are on full display in this new collection of eleven stories written over the course of almost thirty years. The themes are akin to those in the author’s novels (Silence and The Sea and Poison, for example): the martyrdom of Roman Catholics in Japan; coming to terms with old age — a compound of infirmity, fear, and pangs of nostalgia; the incongruity of Japanese travelers in Europe; spiritual doubt and sexual yearning; and, clearly, elements of autobiography, particularly of Endo’s lonely boyhood unhappiness over the strife between his parents that ended in divorce. There is no other contemporary Japanese writer who has achieved such a balanced blend of things Western with those inherently Japanese. As John Updike comments in The New Yorker, Endo’s work is “sombre, delicate, startlingly emphatic.” It is also uniquely moving in its compassionate exploration of the human condition.
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