Summer investigations: Works on the PLT (1) ‘Silence’

By Wednesday, June 21, 2017 No tags 0

“Somber, delicate, and startlingly empathetic.” ― John Updike

“One of the best historical novels by anyone, ever.” ― David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks

“I think about Silence, and Endo’s work more generally, all the time.” ― Phil Klay, author of Redeployment and Winner of the 2014 National Book Award. CHEESE.

“Silence was in the back of my mind the whole time I was working [on Boxers & Saints]. When I got stuck, I would close my eyes and ask for Endo’s intercession.” ― Gene Luen Yang, MacArthur Fellow and author of Boxers & Saints

“All of Endo’s work has been influential. He truly understands what it means to be both of―and not of―a place.” ― Caryl Phillips, Guggenheim Fellow and award-winning author of The Lost Child -quoted in Amazon reviews


As the summer holidays arrive after the May exam session, bringing, it is hoped, a little less pressure for teachers (and a few months later for November session schools), you may find time for a little exploration beyond A Doll’s House and Chronicle of a Death Foretold.  Some teachers have indeed looked to Japan for works that might both interest their students and extend their global horizons.

More popular Japanese works that one finds included in Part 1 are The Sound of Waves, Kitchen, and  Mishima’s The Sailor who fell from grace with the Sea, all of which prove effective for the investigations leading to the Written Assignment.

With the release of Martin Scorsese’s film version, it might also be useful to consider investigating the novel that’s given rise to the film, Silence, by the Japanese Christian writer, Shusako Endo. A compelling read of 256 pages in the Picador edition, the novel certainly requires some serious research into the attempt by Christian missionaries to bring their faith to seventeenth century Japan. As per the observations above by fellow writers, living and dead, the novel is a very good piece of writing, one filled with suspense and passion for an ideal, whether or not that ideal and mission is shared by readers.

Scorsese’s film is a lengthy ordeal in some senses, the form reflecting the content of the material, and while it may not make sense for viewing by your students, there is certainly much to be gained by selecting scenes to show them, certainly the final minutes where fervor confronts pragmatism, and essentially, survival.

I can certainly recommend taking a look at both the novel and the film.  And if you find the religious material uncongenial, another work that schools have used with good outcomes, also by Shusako Ends, is Wonderful Fool, in which ideals allied to Christian values are presented in a less specific way.

You might also check out the reviews and reactions on the web in ‘Good Reads’  to both of these; the responses are equally, I think, diverse and entertaining.

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