[su_note note_color=”#d5d5d5″ text_color=”#91201f”]Makoto Fujimura’s Silence and Beauty is graciously available free to Christ and Pop Culture members through our partnership with InterVarsity Press.[/su_note]
I first encountered Martin Scorsese’s work during my high school years. After systematically watching my way through his filmography, I wanted know about the director’s future projects and, therefore, surfed on over to IMDb, where I saw a one-word title: Silence. Further investigation revealed that Scorsese’s forthcoming production—to which Daniel Day-Lewis and Benicio Del Toro were still attached at the time—was based upon an eponymous novel by a Japanese author named Shusaku Endo. The spiritual themes, motifs, and imagery in Scorsese’s work intrigued me so thoroughly that I simply had to read the novel that caught the filmmaker’s attention. As a relatively young Christian in the throes of Y.C.S. (Young Calvinist Syndrome, for hose of you who haven’t accepted Calvin into your heart), however, Endo’s masterpiece did not resonate with me. I felt the need to correct every theological jot and tittle; more importantly, I wondered how on earth a story about a bunch of apostate priests could ever be considered edifying. How can a book that is—to my young mind at least—driven by so much doubt and darkness be a spiritual classic? Endo’s Silence had nothing to offer. Or so I thought.
As the years passed and I grew in wisdom (at least a little), I began to appreciate authors who operated outside of the theologically conservative circles in which I ran, writers who challenged my presuppositions while stirring my imagination and affections—namely, Flannery O’Connor, Evelyn Waugh, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. And I sensed that my heart would benefit greatly from a return to Silence. Distractible reader that I am, however, time went by, and Endo’s book sat collecting dust on my shelf. It was not until internationally renowned artist Makoto Fujimura announced that he was working on a book about Silence, suffering, and beauty that I finally made it back to Endo’s seventeenth-century Japan; and now, courtesy of InterVarsity Press, Fujimura’s Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering is free to all Christ and Pop Culture members.
In actuality, this member’s offering functions as two distinct gifts. First and foremost, if you have yet to read Endo’s Silence, let Silence and Beauty serve as the impetus to embark on that literary journey. Before you read Mako’s book, savor Shusaku Endo’s Silence; let it break you, make you weep; let it build you up. I am immensely grateful for Makoto Fujimura bringing the fountain of richness that is Endo’s Silence back out of the bookcase and into my life
Part cultural history, part literary analysis, and part memoir, Makoto Fujimura’s book weaves these three narrative threads together with the deft skill of a lifelong artist. Additionally, Silence and Beauty is an outstanding book in its own right. Fujimura is a steady-handed and illuminating guide to the culture and milieu in which Endo’s novel is situated, and the thoughtful analysis of Silence’s unforgettable climax makes Fujimura’s Silence and Beauty a must-read for Endo critics and fans alike. Ultimately, Fujimura contends, “Endo . . . is a Holy Saturday author describing the darkness of waiting for Easter light to break into our world.” But Silence and Beauty is much more than a literary analysis of a particular novel; it moves beyond the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to show how Endo’s fiction speaks to the “Christ-hidden culture” that is present-day Japan. Here I am also thankful for Fujimura’s work in this wonderful book, for he has broadened my cultural horizon and strengthened my resolve to pray for the nations.
Silence and Beauty is also a remarkably intimate work, in which Fujimura describes several key “Ground-Zero” moments in his life. He writes of his struggles with suicidal thoughts as a young man, of his time spent studying nihonga in Japan, and of his experience of the dreadful morning of September 11, 2001. Fujimura uses these vignettes to remind us that “we cannot heal until we see the narratives of the past renewed by faith and hope.”
Part cultural history, part literary analysis, and part memoir, Makoto Fujimura’s book weaves these three narrative threads together with the deft skill of a lifelong artist. May Silence and Beauty encourage you to seek out Shusaku Endo’s Silence, and may it then help you see the beauty in the darkness.
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