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Set in the period preceding the Christian persecutions in Japan, The Samurai traces the steps of some of the first Japanese to set foot on European soil. Rokuemon Haskura, a low-ranking warrior, is chosen as one of Pope Paul V. The emissaries set sail in 1613, accompanied by an ambitious Franciscan missionary who hopes to bargain treading privileges with the West for the right to head his order in Japan. The arduous journey lasts four years, and the japanese travel from Mexico to Rome, where they are persuaded that the success of their mission depends on their conversion to Christianity. In fact, the enterprise has been futile from the start and the mission returns to Japan where the political tides have shifted: the authorities are pursuing an isolationist policy and a ruthless stamping out of all Western influences. In the face of disillusionment and death, as a samurai the spiritual lord he is not even sure he believes in. The historical context is precise and accurate for this thrilling and complex tale of intrigue.
In the 17th century, Hasekura and three other low-level samurai are sent to seek trade with Father Velasco, a Franciscan missionary and interpreter, they pursue their mission from Nueva Espana to Spain. Along the way, they endure not only the hardships of the journey but priest, who believes that their conversion will gain him the appointment as Bishop of Japan, convinces them that they will succeed only if they convert to Christianity, and reluctantly they agree. Failure, however, is their only reward. After years of wandering, they return to Japan, where they face shame and persecution. Basing his novel on the actual voyage of Hasekura, Endo (Deep River, LJ 2/15/95) masterfully evokes the struggle between the Western individual and the Eastern collective identity and in so doing plumbs the depths of honor, faith, and human endurance. The result is an expansive novel of astonishing power and insight. Strongly recommended for all collections.
A historical novel of early contacts between 20th-century writers.