Volume 3, Issue 9, (Originally Published on Monday 6 May 2013)
The silence of God is just one of those points of discussion that won’t go away, especially in literature. For proof, one thinks of Shakespeare’s King Lear (and how King Lear itself also won’t go away), with perhaps the most infamously and indiscriminately silent (albeit pagan) gods ever put into a play.
Silence is set in 17th century Japan. The protagonist is a Portuguese Jesuit missionary by the name of Rodrigues who travels to Japan to investigate the persecution of Christians and the apostasy of his mentor, who is Cristóvão Ferreira. The novel is written in the 3rd person, but also epistolary in parts. We follow Rodrigues as he witnesses torture, endurance and apostasy. These events form a prism from which Rodrigues contemplates the eponymous silence of God, not least in the face of suffering. The questions that Silence poses are confronting, and it is easy to put oneself in the shoes of its vividly human characters; when Rodrigues questions and struggles to make sense of his world, one feels that he does so on behalf of all of us too.
Shusaku Endo does not offer us any easy answers or solutions in his beautiful novel, nor does he teach us how to approach silence. This novel is not a prescriptive piece of writing. What Endo does offer is a delicate and touching analysis of silence not as a void, but as an object or message on its own. Read this one feelingly. 9/10