Saturday, August 21, 2010

Stained Glass Elegies. by Shusaku Endo

Translated by, Van. c. Gessel.




Is your faith strong enough to withstand repeated beatings, starvation, torture and all the myriad of methods, one human being can devise to hurt and scar another?What if, they came for your family, friends, or even your neighbours?
Now what if come this moment, this brutal challenge to your beliefs, you are offered a way out, (no questions asked), just renounce your god, stomp on some old relics of your faith and walk away.

You've survived, your free....But then what? There was your family & friends whose faith remained unquestioned, whose beliefs took the kicking but stood up, again and again, till they could no longer stand...
But you've survived, your free.  Now what ?, after the initial relief has faded and your heart has returned to its pedestrian beat.

What of your conscience
Now what of your faith?
Stained glass elegies

This represents just one of the ideas in this collection of 11 short stories, by Shusaku Endo. It mainly consists of works previously published in Japan, as Aika (Elegies), which appeared in 1965 and Juichi no iro garasu (11 stained - glass segments) published in 1979, making this - Stained Glass Elegies, a composite of the two. In this compilation, Endo, introduces us to characters who are trying to come to terms with their relationship (past & present) to the Christian faith, in a society, that when it's not antagonistic towards it, is just indifferent.

This book could easily be described as Autobiographical Fiction, and in that role,  the author's dialogue through the characters in these stories, could be seen as an attempt to comprehend his own relationship to the faith he was raised in and also the image & role that Christ, plays in that relationship.
These tales are dour*, but beautifully written, there are tales set in hospitals, with individuals with serious health problems (mirroring the author's own life). We have people trying come to terms with the war, with their own survival, stories dealing with a lack of faith, with guilt & dishonour.
Then, there's - The Incredible Voyage, at face, a parody of a 1966 American film "Fantastic Voyage", without a spoiler alert,all I will say is this is a Quote from it.

"I shall cut a hole in my sister's stool with the surgical scalpel. A hole just big enough for our ship to pass through."



Whether it's through the use of humour or straight narrative, what comes across, is Endo's philosophy "That the actions of a human being is never self contained" they creates ripples that permeate, far beyond the initial thought or deed & with this idea, comes the need for a sense of personal responsibility, of accounting for ones actions.


Van C Gessel,( lost in translation)

SHUSAKU ENDO wikipedia

Dour,but beautifull

*Dour- marked by intractable sternness or harshness.

4 comments:

Sheila Deeth said...

You certainly make this sound interesting. I shall look out for it.

mel u said...

This does sound like a very interesting work-thanks for sharing it with us

chasingbawa said...

I read The Samurai and The Volcano by Endo last year, both of which deal with Christianity and faith in Japan and was seriously impressed with Endo's work. The Samurai was also beautifully translated by Van C Gessel. I think Endo is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and I'd like to read this collection too.

parrish lantern said...

@chasingbawa: Of the two I've read- The Sea & Poison, & this, this is my favourite. I also want to read more of his works, as so far he has not let me down.