In , he would become chief editor of one of these, the prestigious Mita Bungaku. He first attended Waseda University for the stated purpose of studying medicine. Throughout his life bouts of disease plagued him, and he spent two years in hospital at one point. The teachings of Christ are like a flame.

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Jan 07, Tsung rated it it was amazing This is a marvelous work of historical fiction. I was interested to learn about the lead up to the Edo period of Japan. This was a time of three of Japans most important leaders, Nobunaga, Toyotomi and Tokugawa, who were responsible for unifying Japan.

This was also when Japan shut out foreign influences and extirpated all the vestiges of Christianity. This was a time of Shoguns, daimyos and samurais. It was an interesting introduction to Japanese history, culture and religion. But the story is This is a marvelous work of historical fiction. But the story is more than that.

Four low ranking samurai are chosen as envoys for an important mission to forge ties with the Spanish. It was a risky gambit, to invite proselytizing missionaries to come to Japan at a time when Christians were being persecuted.

This was in exchange for a chance to establish trade with the technologically more advanced Spanish. So these four pawns embarked on a perilous journey, more than halfway across the world.

They saw sights and met people which no other Japanese had met before. Not only were they pushed to their physical limits, but they were forced to compromise on their honour, beliefs, even their very souls. There is a sense of disenfranchisement and inevitability for the samurais and their families.

They were inveigled into accepting a supposedly important mission, with a hope of repossessing the estates which their families had lost. The four samurai were trapped individuals. They were bound to serve the interests of their families and bound to serve their Lords and Patrons. They had little choice of their own. How devastating and soul-crushing it was for them to discover later that their mission was a farce. It was just a mere decoy to learn about sailing across the seas from the Spanish.

It was never about establishing trade relations or opening up to missionaries. The story is told from two perspectives. One is from Father Velasco. The second is from an unidentified third party observing the four samurai.

The four samurai have very distinctive characteristics and roles. Hasekura was the main protagonist. He was the most moderate of the four. His character seemed rather dull at first, but as things got worse and worse, I could not help but feel sorry for him. Intrigued by the humanity of Christ, he struggles with his own existentialist beliefs. We get a fair dose of Christology from the author. Matsuki was perhaps the most insightful of the four, recognizing the futility of their mission and pulling out halfway through, at the risk of being disgraced on his return.

He is also perhaps the most cowardly of the four, abandoning the remaining three who naively, but courageously soldier on to meet their fate. Tanaka was the quintessential samurai. He is the most honour-bound, all the way to his death by seppuku. Nishi was the most junior ranked of the four. He was wide-eyed and ingenuous. Father Valesco was single minded and ambitious, well meaning but misguided.

He was so blinded by his drive to establish Christianity in Japan, that he unwittingly catalyzes the downfall of the samurai. There were interesting comparisons in the story. As for the master and servant relationships, the samurai took care of their servants like family, whereas the samurai were disposable to their Lords.

The Japanese seemed vicious and ruthless compared to the Spanish, but the Spanish were probably no better. Lurking in the background of the story was the spectre of colonialism. It was not explicit but the Spanish would have had designs on Japan. While the samurai spent time in Neuva Espana Mexico and surrounds , they were not just seeing the effects of colonialism on the Indians, but rather what might have happened to the Japanese, if Tokugawa had not shut the doors.

The tales of their sea journey was harrowing. I cannot imagine sailing across the Pacific or Atlantic in a small wooden vessel. But while they survived the wild ocean, they could not navigate the political sea.


Shūsaku Endō



The Samurai



El Samurai - Shusaku Endo.pdf



El samurai – Shusaku Endo


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