The Final Martyrs (Paperback)
New Directions, 9780811218115, 224pp.
Publication Date: January 27, 2009
Other Editions of This Title:
An affirmation of faith and identity by Japan's leading Christian novelist.
Eleven short, deeply spiritual stories ranging from autobiographical serendipities to solemn, empathetic parables. The title story is set during the 18th-century Shogunate persecution of Christians in Japan.
About the Author
Van C. Gessel has published six translations of works by Endo.
Praise For The Final Martyrs…
— John Wilson
Somber, haunting stories that resonate with compassion, eloquence, and metaphor. Once again, Endo (Foreign Studies, 1990, etc.) explores the themes for which he is famous: Roman Catholics in Japan, the illness and fear of aging, the pain of divorce, the loneliness of childhood. In this collection of 11 stories written over the last 30 years, autobiography continues to take a front seat: Endo finds inspiration in his own experience with lung disease to address physical suffering; in his of innocence and compromise; in his own experience with Christianity to address, as the apostate in the almost epic title story, the question of whether or not it is all right to be afraid and run away from a commitment to Christianity in the face of persecution; and in his increasing age to tackle nostalgia, regret, and resignation. To make these heavy topics even murkier, they often overlap in ways that would be overwhelming to gentle touch. Spiritual decline feels natural as "A Fifty-year-old Man," a disillusioned husband, offers an almost comic look at watching his dog relief when a writer finally understands that he childhood mentor, nemesis, and betrayer. And we recognize the writer in "The Box" who follows the trail of postcards he finds in an antiques shop to discover love, betrayal, and espionage while wondering if "perhaps I think up such nonsensical, irrational things because I am getting old." What might otherwise feel like giving up becomes giving in to the unrecognized power of the human condition. This is the precious uncertainty of all of strange celebration of life and death that is wise but never weary.
This ably translated compilation of short stories clearly demonstrates the tension inherent in practicing a nonorganic religion in a culture foreign to the philosophy it espouses. contexts the trials and triumphs of Christians practicing their religion in Japan. Both Westerners and Japanese are in the mix of situations presented, and the short story format sharply focuses the ideas and the events described, which present cultural differences in a bright light. From the cowardice turned into resolve shown in the title story to the gruesome and startling revelations of "The Last Supper," Endo demonstrates his mastery of a delicate and endlessly fascinating juncture of philosophies. Recommended for informed readers.
In a calm, delicate, unobtrusive manner, several of these 11 deceptively simple stories by Japanese novelist Endo (The Golden Country) show people wrestling with central issues. In "The Last Supper," an alcoholic corporate executive confesses to a psychiatrist the source of his torment: as a starving soldier in WWII, he ate a dead earlier, in order to cremate her remains and place them with the ashes of his recently deceased brother. In the title story, set in the 1860s, when the Meiji government outlawed Christianity, a village coward recants his Christian faith to avoid the torture meted out to his fellow converts, but he ultimately redeems himself through an act of quiet courage. This deftly translated collection, comprised of stories written as early as 1959 and as late as 1985, also includes semi-autobiographical tales in which Endo deals with the traumatic impact He also writes with grace, compassion and gentle humor about old age, love betrayed, Japanese tourists and the marks we leave on the lives of others.