First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
It is 1640 and Jesuit priest Sebastian Rodrigues sets sail for Japan determined to help the brutally oppressed Christians there. He is also desperate to discover the truth about his former mentor, rumoured to have renounced his faith under torture. Rodrigues cannot believe the stories about a man he so revered, but as his journey takes him deeper into Japan and then into the hands of those who would crush his faith, he finds himself forced to make an impossible choice: to abandon his flock or his God…
Back in May 1, I commenced a trip down the heart of Japanese Literature, one of my favorite corners of the literary world. I opened the journey with Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase, immediately followed by Yoko Tawada’s Memoirs of a Polar Bear. My third read for the month is Shūsaku Endō’s Silence. Like Tawada’s Memoirs of a Polar Bear, Silence is my initiation into the the works of Endō.
Through several must-read lists I’ve perused a couple of years aback, Silence was one of the titles that has piqued my interest. Because of this, I’ve constantly searched for a copy of the book, which was rather hard to come by where I am. Actually, I did come across copies of the book in the local bookstore but they were all in paperback; I badly wanted a hardbound copy. In the end, I relented and bought a copy of the book during the 2020 edition of the Big Bad Wolf Sale in Manila.
I just started reading the book, and is currently in the second chapter. I, however, was given a peek into what the novel is about. In a nutshell, it is about the conquest of a set of Catholic missionaries to establish a foothold in Shintoist Japan. The novel’s major theme actually caught me by surprise. I bought the book without any inkling on what it was about. Just like most books I have, I relied on instinct.
Not that I regret buying the book. On the contrary, my curiosity was further piqued. How common does one reader encounter a Japanese book that explores the birth of Catholicism on Japan. The book was even adapted into a Hollywood film by famed director Martin Scorsese. In the book’s introduction, Scorsese voiced how much he adored the book.
Okay, the book. The writing is straightforward, so far. When dealing with Japanese literature, one cannot expect straightforward all the way. But this book is roughly a historical fiction as well so perhaps it deviates from the archetypes of Japanese writers. Oh, I also learned that Endō is a rarity as well for he is one of very few Japanese writers who explores the Japanese Roman Catholic perspective.
With that in mind, I feel like the plot will transform into a suspense and adventure novel. I am looking forward to how Endō paints a backdrop for his story – Japan in the 1600s. There is so much to look forward to in the story. In particular, I am eagerly anticipating how Sebastian Rodrigues will find his former mentor, Father Ferreira. Despite, the seemingly un-Japanese subject, I already foresee how Endō anchored his most important work to the culture and traditions of Japan.
Happy weekend fellow book lovers! Happy reading!