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Shusaku Endo—The Final Martyrs

Another new author from Eyes to See, is Shusaku Endo, whose story “The Final Martyrs” takes the reader into an unfamiliar world, that of crypto-Christians during the politically turbulent times of nineteenth-century Japan. In reading this story, which explores, not surprisingly, the experience of persecution and martyrdom, my mind returned to “Sea and Sunset,” a story of thirteenth-century Japan by Yukio Mishima. Mishima, not an author particularly inclined toward Christianity, relates the utter otherness of a young European man brought as a slave to Japan in the aftermath of the abortive Children’s Crusade.
While Endo’s story stands as a fairly unremarkable study of the psychology of persecution, I find it intriguing for its location in an incredibly hostile, incredibly foreign locale. Both Endo’s and Mishima’s stories locate Christianity in a profoundly isolated place. The cavalry will not be riding in to save the day in either story. Comfort and hope will not be arriving from any external source. This leaves the would-be martyr in a vulnerable position, while affording him a purity of action. No one can ascribe political or social motivations to the steadfastness of these persecuted Christians. Perhaps most importantly, their potential for self-delusion, while not eliminated, is diminished.

Posted in Japanese Literature.

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