Kiku's Prayer: A Novelby Shusaku Endo
Endo Shusaku was a renowned twentieth-century Japanese author who wrote from the unusual perspective of being both Japanese and Catholic. His work is often compared to that of Graham Greene, who himself considered Endo one of the century’s finest writers. A historical novel set in the turbulent period between the fall of the shogunate and the Meiji
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Endo Shusaku was a renowned twentieth-century Japanese author who wrote from the unusual perspective of being both Japanese and Catholic. His work is often compared to that of Graham Greene, who himself considered Endo one of the century’s finest writers. A historical novel set in the turbulent period between the fall of the shogunate and the Meiji Restoration, Kiku’s Prayer embodies themes central to Endo’s work, including religion, modernization, and the endurance of the human spirit. In Japan, the book is considered one of his late masterpieces and has never before been translated into English.Endo’s novel is told through the eyes of Kiku, self-assured young woman from a rural village who falls in love with Seikichi, a devoted Catholic man. Practicing a faith still banned by the government, Seikichi is imprisoned and forced to recant under torture. Kiku’s efforts to reconcile her feelings for Seikichi and the sacrifices she makes to free him mirror the painful, conflicting choices Japan faced as a result of exposure to modernity and the West. Endo’s nuanced view of history is very much on display in this novel: Seikichi’s persecution exemplifies Japan’s insecurities toward the West, and Kiku’s tortured yet determined spirit represents the nation’s resilient soul. Yet Kiku’s Prayer is much more than a historical allegory. It acutely renders one woman’s troubled encounter with passion and spirituality at a transitional time in her life and in the life of her people.
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Meet the Author
Endo Shusaku (19231996) studied French literature at the University of Lyon from 1950 to 1953. In 1995, Japan’s Emperor Akihito presented the author with the Order of Culture, the nation’s highest honor for contributions in literature, art, and culture. His publications include the internationally acclaimed novel Silence (soon to be adapted for the screen by director Martin Scorsese), The Sea and Poison, A Life of Jesus, and Song of Sadness, as well as many other works dealing with childhood experiences, the stigma of being an outsider, the experience of being a foreigner, and the difficulties of following a foreign faith. Van C. Gessel is professor of Japanese at Brigham Young University. He is the author of Three Modern Novelists: Soseki, Tanizaki, Kawabata; coeditor of The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature; and translator of seven literary works by Endo Shusaku, including The Samurai and Deep River.
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