Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Silence by Shusaku Endo (1966)

I am fascinated by Japan, and this is the most famous work by a highly regarded Japanese author, but it is the second book in a month I have chosen to not finish. The book is a historical novel (usually my favorites) about Portuguese missionaries to Japan in the 17th century. I fully respect the right of people to believe in whatever makes sense to them, but have a very difficult time with those who think they have to bring their beliefs to others. I understand bringing medicine, literacy, agricultural skills, clean water wells to people to better their lives, but imposing a religion, which then often wrecks their own culture, I do not get. 

If I understand it correctly, Christians did make some inroads in Japan, but then the Japanese government banned Christianity in the 17th century and punished those who still worshiped Christ. Many missionaries left, but some still tried to serve underground. If the officials found Christians, they were forced to denounce their religion and become an apostate or were killed. As far as I got into the book, two Portuguese fathers hear of their teacher having apostatized and don't believe it, so they sneak into Japan and find a few Japanese villages that still have Christian believers that they serve. I am sure they were going to go look for their teacher and discover what has happened to him.

I just could not continue listening to this, as in my mind I kept asking "why are you doing this?" The only slight glimpse of understanding I got was from a line where the Japanese told the missionaries that the Christian fathers were the only ones that treated them like human beings, with love and care. I understand their lives were harsh, as were those of lower classes everywhere, and I get that religion offered hope, something to help people get through the hard times. I would rather explore why Buddhism did not offer that to the people of Japan. 

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