The Sea and Poison

The Sea and Poison

by Shusaku Endo
     
 

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The novel The Sea and Poison won the Akutagawa Prize when it was published in Japan in 1958 and established Shusaku Endo in the forefront of modern Japanese literature.The Sea and Poison was the first Japanese book to confront the problem of individual responsibility in wartime, painting a searing picture of the human race’s capacity for inhumanity. At the

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Overview

The novel The Sea and Poison won the Akutagawa Prize when it was published in Japan in 1958 and established Shusaku Endo in the forefront of modern Japanese literature.The Sea and Poison was the first Japanese book to confront the problem of individual responsibility in wartime, painting a searing picture of the human race’s capacity for inhumanity. At the outset of this powerful story we find a Doctor Suguro in a backwater of modern-day Tokyo practicing expert medicine in a dingy office. He is haunted by his past experience and it is that past which the novel unfolds. During the war Dr. Suguro serves his internship in a hospital where the senior staff is more interested in personal career-building than in healing. He is induced to assist in a horrifying vivisection of a POW. "What is it that gets you," one of his colleagues asks. "Killing that prisoner? The conscience of man, is that it?"

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Against the backdrop of World War II, Japanese writer Endo ( Scandal ) explores the nature of morality. In this novel, originally published in Japan in 1958, the author examines the inner lives of three characters in the central drama, a grisly vivisection of an American prisoner of war, in an attempt to understand what conscience, or lack of conscience, allowed them to participate in such an atrocity. Through the character of Suguro, an unsophisticated medical intern from the country bullied into acquiescence in the crime by his colleague, Toda, the cynical son of a wealthy doctor, we see how pangs of conscience are not enough to save one from the consequences of participation--even as only an observer--in an unethical act. Endo's finely wrought descriptions of place and the monotonous routine of daily life in a hospital subtly but powerfully evoke the despair and terror of a people at war. He presents here a decidedly postmodern world, where individuals exist in a state of disconnected anomie. Despite its bleakness, the novel is compulsively readable. We are fascinated even as we are repelled by these characters' moral corruption and their slow, inevitable decline. (Apr.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811211987
Publisher:
New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
04/28/1992
Series:
Revived Modern Classic Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
176
Sales rank:
628,718
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile:
880L (what's this?)

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Meet the Author

Shusaku Endo was born in Tokyo in 1923 and died in 1996. After his parents divorced, he and his mother converted to Catholicism—a faith which is central to many of his tales. He is widely regarded as Japan's leading writer and has won all his country's major literary prizes, including the Akutagawa, the Noma, the Shincho, and the Tanizaki.

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