Thursday, October 27, 2016

Next Book

I will be reading Spontaneous, by Aaron Stamer next. I needed something a little lighter after than slog through Silence. Feel free to join me in reading this.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Review: Silence

Silence Silence by Shūsaku Endō
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was very excited to read this book. This was the second selection of our Department Book Club and I pushed hard to get this one picked. Unfortunately, I didn't like it. I felt obligated to finish the darn thing because we will be discussing it in a week or so, but I really struggled to read this.

First, the story wasn't original. I kept seeing Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption and Heart of Darkness in this novel. As well as a ton of overt biblical allusions. I get it, Kichijiro is Judas! You don't need to keep harping on that through the last half of the novel. Now, I have read books that are similar to other books, but the problem in this instance is that it wasn't done particularly well. I felt like there were winks and nods through the whole novel as if the author was saying, "See what I did there, see? I'm clever." No, not really.

The first half of the novel just dragged. Lots of sitting in shacks and waiting and hiding. And then the second half of the novel should have picked up because some action actually started happening, but it didn't. I was very disappointed in the entirety of the plot.

Silence wouldn't have been all that bad if it had had some interesting or beautiful sentences/images, but it was very blah writing. Maybe it was the translation and maybe this book is much more beautiful in the Japanese, but I was dying for a beautiful Faulkner-like sentence. Unfortunately, I never got one. Nothing noteworthy in this novel.

The thing that kills me is that the reviews for this book are glowing in many respects. I just don't know why it has 4.5 out of 5 on Amazon and 4.09 here on Goodreads. Maybe I just didn't get it. A major disappointment for me.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Silence & Heart of Darkness

In Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, Marlow travels through Africa to meet Kurtz--this mysterious figure at the end of his journey. Once he finds Kurtz, the man is a shadow of his former self, twisted and destroyed by the jungle that surrounds him. In Heart of Darkness, Kurtz loses his humanity in the jungle and eventually dies. Marlow is luckier and is able to return to civilization with his sanity, humanity, and the realization of how quickly a man can lose himself if we aren't careful.

In Silence, by Shusaku Endo, Rodrigues travels through Japan looking for Ferreira--a mysterious figure at the end of his journey. Once he finds Ferreira, the man is a shadow of his former self, changed and destroyed by the Japanese that surround him. In Silence, Ferreira loses his faith in Japan and eventually apostatizes. Rodrigues is luckier and is able to retain his faith, although he does "apostatize" by trampling on the fumie. Rodrigues realizes how quickly a man can lose his faith when placed under severe trials. 

I see a lot of similarities. Dang you, Endo! Not cool!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Biblical Allusions in Silence

The most obvious one is Kichijiro as Judas Iscariot. There is even a passage in the novel where the author spells this allusion out for those who might not be so well versed in their New Testament. 
"From childhood the priest had memorized every detail of that decisive morning of April 7th. This emaciated man was his perfect ideal. His eyes, like those of every victim, were filled with sorrowful resignation as he looked reproachfully at the crowd that ridiculed and spat at him. And in this crowd stood Judas. Why had Judas followed after? Was he incited by lust for revenge--to watch the final destruction of the man he had sold? Anyhow, whatever about that, this case was just like his own. He had been sold by Kichijiro as Christ has been sold as Judas; and like Christ he was now being judged by the powerful ones of this world. Yes, his fate and that of Christ were quite alike; and at this thought on that rainy night a tingling sensation of joy welled up within his breast. This was the joy of the Christian who relishes the truth that he is united to the Son of God."
The amount Kichijiro sells Rodrigues for is comparable to the thirty pieces of silver that Judas sold Christ for. 

But, I don't really feel that Rodrigues is our Christ of this story. When presented with the opportunity, Rodrigues shies away from suffering for the good of his people. Now, Christ pleaded for an easier way in the Garden but didn't run away from his duty. Rodrigues simply gives up.

At the end of the novel--POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD--Rodrigues tramples on the face of Christ (the Fumie as they call it). And after he places his foot on the image of Christ the cock crows. This is an allusion to Simon Peter denying Christ three times and then the cock crowed. The question would then be, were there two other times where Rodrigues denied Christ in the novel? I can't think of other times when Rodrigues denied Christ, but then again, I didn't pay super close attention to this novel. I do like the Rodrigues = Simon Peter interpretation better than the Rodrigues = Christ interpretation personally.

The problem then becomes who Ferreira represents in all of this. As I was reading I was thinking that Ferreira would be Simon Peter, but the last line of chapter nine refutes that idea. 

This is one of the frustrating things about this book. Endo uses these biblical allusions, but I want every character to have a symbolic counterpart and they don't. I feel that it detracts from the power that this novel could have. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Symphony No. 3, "Silence"

As I get further in this novel, I am finding all sorts of interesting things that were created. The cover of my book states that there will be a major motion picture produced, directed by Martin Scorsese. But I also found out that there was already a film made for this book in the seventies, and that James MacMillan wrote a symphony that connects to the novel. I don't normally discuss music on this blog, but I figured why not. Have a listen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Silence of God

No surprise that a book about a Portuguese priest in Japan would have many things to say about religion and God. I've noticed that one of the biggest issues that the characters try to deal with is the seeming silence of God.

"No, Kichijiro was trying to express something different, something even more sickening. The silence of God. Already twenty years have passed since the persecution broke out; the black soil of Japan has been filled with the lament of so many Christians; the red blood of priests has flowed profusely; the walls of the churches have fallen down; and in the face of this terrible and merciless sacrifice offered up to Him, God has remained silent. This was the problem that lay behind the plaintive question of Kichijiro."

This idea also comes up again when Rodrigues is captured and then interrogated by the samurai. In the case of this novel, I have to go with what I can see from the words on the page. Yes, there is some historical context that is guiding this story, but this world may not be exactly as our own. This Japan is dark without much hope to be had. Rodrigues comes face-to-face with so many conflicts and problems that one begins to wonder if Kichijiro is right in his thinking that maybe God doesn't exist, or remains silent for some nefarious reason. These problems happen, obviously, to move the plot along and keep the story interesting, but I can see where these characters get this question from. God, the one whom all this is for, isn't helping, isn't comforting, isn't saving his servants. This may be why Kichijiro ultimately decides to apostatize and betray Rodrigues. 

We can even see this in the greetings of Rodrigues' letters in the novel. In the first few chapters he opens his missives with "Praised be Christ" and "The peace of God. Glory to Christ." But by chapter three those exaltations have been left out. Is it possible that this is because Rodrigues feels the hopelessness of his situation? He subconsciously stops praising Christ and God, because he feels like there is nothing to praise? Possibly.  

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Read-Along-Blog: Prologue, Silence by Shusaku Endo

Time to dive into this book. 

First, the cover. I absolutely love the cover. Well, at least the cover on the copy I got from my local library. My buddy across the hallway also checked it out and his cover is not as good. But the image is so beautiful, so evocative. I love the contrast between the dark grey/black of the sky and the red of the moon and the "moon drips". The sea is tinted pinkish/red because the blood of the moon is dripping down. And then this image of the priest praying on a cliff--very symbolic.

Now, let's dive in.

  • "News reached the Church in Rome. Christovao Ferreira, sent to Japan by the Society of Jesus in Portugal, after undergoing the torture of 'the pit' at Nagasaki had apostatized." Very interesting way to start the book. It clues us into what Christovao is going to do in the future of the story, but I am assuming we are going to then go back and watch how he got to the point where he apostatized--what made him do it. Also, several prepositional phrases in this sentence.
  • "And this same Ferreira was now somewhere in Japan. Had that face with its clear blue eyes and soft radiant light--hat it been changed by the hands of the Japanese torturers?" I love how the question in this second sentence is phrased. It starts out a question and then loses itself in description, but then picks up the question later after a dash. 
  • On the whole, Shusaku Endo is impressing me with his prose. I mean the prologue reads like a historical text book, only with more details on individuals. But the diction and syntax is very well done. Especially since this is a translation. We may be missing some of the poetic turns of phrase that I am sure are present in the original, but overall, not too shabby.
So, not a ton to discuss, but a good set up chapter. Hopefully this book will hold my attention. I really like the idea and Endo is a good writer and that cover!

P6: Dubliners Socratic Seminar

P5: Dubliners Socratic Seminar

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Photosynthesis, by William Michaelian

I just have to. It is too good to not share.

Take a moment and hop on down to William Michaelian's blog and check out his poem Photosynthesis.

I love the poetic turn in this one. Absolutely fantastic.

Check it out.