(遠藤 周作 Endō Shūsaku
, March 271923
) was a renowned 20th century Japanese author
who wrote from the unusual perspective of being both Japanese
. (The population of Christians in Japan
is less than 1%.) Together with Junnosuke Yoshiyuki
, Shotaro Yasuoka, Junzo Shono, Hiroyuki Agawa
, Ayako Sono
, and Shumon Miura, Endo is categorized as one of the "Third Generation," the third major group of writers who appeared after the Second World War
Endo was born in Tokyo in 1923, but his parents moved shortly after to live in Japanese-occupied Manchuria. When his parents divorced in 1933, Endo returned to Japan with his mother to live in her hometown of Kobe. His mother converted to Catholicism when he was a small child and raised the young Endo as a Catholic. Endo was baptized in 1935 at the age of 12 and given the Christian name of Paul.
Endo studied French literature at the University of Lyon from 1950 to 1953.
His books reflect many of his childhood experiences. These include the stigma of being an outsider, the experience of being a foreigner, the life of a hospital patient, and the struggle with tuberculosis. However, his books mainly deal with the moral fabric of life. His Catholic faith can be seen at some level in all of his books, and it is often a central feature. Most of his characters struggle with complex moral dilemmas, and their choices often produce mixed or tragic results. In this his work is often compared to that of Graham Greene. In fact, Greene himself labeled Endo one of the finest writers of the 20th century.
- White Man (1955)
- Yellow Man (1955): A story/novella in the form of a letter written by a young man, no longer a practicing Catholic himself, to his former pastor, a French missionary.
- The Sea and Poison (1958): Set largely in a Fukuoka hospital, during World War II, this novel is concerned with lethal vivisections carried out on downed American airmen. It is told from the first-person point of view of one of the doctors and the third-person perspective of his colleagues who cut open, experiment on, and kill the six crew members. This is based on a true incident. It was made into the 1986 movie Umi to dokuyaku, directed by Kei Kumai and starring Eiji Okuda and Ken Watanabe.
- Wonderful Fool (1959): A story about a kind, innocent but naive Frenchman visiting post-war Tokyo.
- Volcano (1960): A novel concerning three declining figures: an apostate Catholic priest, the director of a weather station in provincial Japan, and the volcano on which he is an expert.
- 私が棄てた女 Watashi ga suteta onna (The Girl I Left Behind) (1963)
- 留学 (Ryuugaku) Foreign Studies (1965)
- Silence (1966): Endo's most famous work, generally regarded as his masterpiece; it is a historical novel, telling the story of a Portuguese missionary in early 17th century Japan who becomes an apostate, but only in formality; the Christian faith is kept private from then on by the protagonist. (ISBN 0-8008-7186-3)
- The Golden Country (1970): A play in three acts; a dramatic adaptation of Silence.
- 恋愛とは何か Ren'ai to ha nani ka (What is Love?) (1972): A essay on love.
- Upon The Dead Sea (1973)
- 黒ん坊 Kuronbo (Nigger) (1973)
- A Life of Jesus (1973)
- When I Whistle (1974)
- Song of Sadness (1977)
- 王妃マリーアントワネット Marie Antoinette (1979)
- 侍 The Samurai (1980): A historical novel, relating the diplomatic mission of Hasekura Tsunenaga to Mexico and Europe in the 17th century.
- Scandal (1986): Set in Tokyo, the book is about a novelist who finds himself caught up in the scandal of the title.
- Deep River (1993): Set in India, it chronicles the physical and spiritual journey of a group of Japanese tourists who are facing a wide range of moral and spiritual dilemmas in their respective lives.
The Shusaku Endo Literary Museum
in Sotome, Nagasaki, is devoted to the writer's life and works.