|Publisher||Taplinger Publishing Company|
|Published in English||1969|
Silence (沈黙 Chinmoku ) is a 1966 novel of historical fiction by Japanese author Shūsaku Endō. It is the story of a Jesuit missionary sent to 17th century Japan, who endured persecution in the time of Kakure Kirishitan ("Hidden Christians") that followed the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion. The recipient of the 1966 Tanizaki Prize, it has been called "Endo’s supreme achievement" and "one of the twentieth century’s finest novels". Written partly in the form of a letter by its central character, the theme of a silent God who accompanies a believer in adversity was greatly influenced by the Catholic Endō's experience of religious discrimination in Japan, racism in France and debilitating tuberculosis.
Young Portuguese Jesuit, Sebastião Rodrigues (based on the historical figure Giuseppe Chiara) is sent to Japan to succor the local Church and investigate reports that his mentor, Fr. Cristóvão Ferreira, has committed apostasy. (Ferreira is a historical figure, who apostatized after torture and later married a Japanese woman and wrote a treatise against Christianity.)
Fr. Rodrigues and his companion Fr. Francisco Garrpe arrive in Japan in 1638. There they find the local Christian population driven underground. Security officials force suspected Christians to trample on fumie, which are crudely carved images of Christ. Those who refuse are imprisoned and killed by anazuri (穴吊り), being hung upside down over a pit and slowly bled. Those Christians who do step on the image to stay hidden are deeply shamed by their act of apostasy. The novel relates the trials of the Christians and increasing hardship suffered by Rodrigues, as more is learnt about the circumstances of Ferreira's apostasy. Finally, Rodrigues is betrayed by the Judas-like Kichijiro. In the climax, as Rodrigues looks upon a fumie, Christ breaks his silence:
Yet the face was different from that on which the priest had gazed so often in Portugal, in Rome, in Goa and in Macau. It was not Christ whose face was filled with majesty and glory; neither was it a face made beautiful by endurance to pain; nor was it a face with strength of a will that has repelled temptation. The face of the man who then lay at his feet [in the fumie] was sunken and utterly exhausted…The sorrow it had gazed up at him [Rodrigues] as the eyes spoke appealingly: 'Trample! Trample! It is to be trampled on by you that I am here.'
Silence received the Tanizaki Prize for the year's best full-length literature. It has also been the subject of extensive analysis. William Cavanaugh refers to the novel's "deep moral ambiguity" due to the depiction of a God who "has chosen not to eliminate suffering, but to suffer with humanity." Endō, in his book A Life of Jesus, states that Japanese culture identifies with "one who 'suffers with us' and who 'allows for our weakness'", and thus "With this fact always in mind, I tried not so much to depict God in the father-image that tends to characterize Christianity, but rather to depict the kind-hearted maternal aspect of God revealed to us in the personality of Jesus." 
In 2007, American film director Martin Scorsese announced his intention to direct an adaptation of the book which he had hoped to film in summer 2008. In 2009 it was announced in Empireonline.com that Daniel Day-Lewis and Benicio del Toro have been signed to star in Scorsese's film adaptation. In 2013 Andrew Garfield and Ken Watanabe have been attached to the film adaptation, which enters production in June 2014.
References and notes
- "Shusaku Endo’s Silence" by Luke Reinsma, Response of Seattle Pacific University,Volume 27, Number 4, Autumn 2004
- PDF (121 KiB) by Brett R. Dewey for the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, 2005, p. 2
- Dewey 2005, p. 3
- Shusaku Endo, Silence, trans. William Johnston (New York: Taplinger, 1980), pp. 175–6.
- "Suffering the Patient Victory of God: Shusaku Endo and the Lessons of a Japanese Catholic" by Brett R. Dewey, Quodlibet: Vol 6 Number 1, January–March 2004
- "The god of silence: Shusaku Endo's reading of the Passion - critique of the Japanese novel 'Silence'" by William T. Cavanaugh, Commonweal, March 13, 1998
- "The Christology of Shusaku Endo" by Fumitaka Matsuoka, Theology Today, October 1982, p. 295
- "Chinmoku (1971)", Internet Movie Database (accessed 20 February 2010)
- "Tokyo NNT website" (accessed 15 February 2011)
- "Next for Scorsese: 17th-century Japan" by Angela Doland, Associated Press, 24 May 2007
- "BBCSSO/Runnicles" by Rowena Smith, The Guardian, 28 April 2008