About a month ago, I was having a conversation with a friend and he mentioned a novel he had recommended to some Christians about apostasy. Naturally, leaders responded with much less fervor than he did. As he talked about it, I recalled the Scorsece film with Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield which I had fallen asleep while watching years ago so I missed some key points. But, our discussion piqued my interest so I bought the book and began to read to refresh my memory.
The premise involves two Jesuits who travel from Portugal to 1600's Japan to find out what happened to a priest who vanished. While there, they encounter a persecution from the Japanese government of Japanese Christians and, later on, themselves that not only involves physical torture, but psychological torture by the feared Inoue. While the narrative focuses on the Jesuit priests, the character who fascinated and convicted me was the figure of Kichijiro.
Coward, drunk, impulsive, fickle, backstabber. All these terms are embodied within Kichijiro, the Japanese guide who seems to plague the two priests through his constant apostasy, half-truths and need for absolution. He is a figure the priests despise but can't help but feel empathy for. Like a reminder of our own fallibility, Kichijiro reoccurs through the narrative, complicating the lives of the priests and himself through his own lack of resolution and fear.
Endo's rendering of this figure reflects our own moral dilemma of faith: What would we do in the face of persecution for our faith? Would we step on the fumie, the image of Christ, or would we bathe in a "glorious martyrdom'? Though I would like to believe I am like those Japanese Christians who would sing about heaven, tied to a cross as the waves smashed against me, the truth is I would be more like Kichijiro. Or would I?
Silence, much like all of Endo's works, creates such a crisis for the reader, you can not help pondering your own faith once the book is closed and ask yourself, "Am I Kichijiro?"
Toadvine, the Kid, and, obviously, Judge Holden, are unparalleled and so captivating you can't seem to turn away and read on during the campfire scenes because the Judge's diatribes are part maniacal and theological, never truly sure if you are hearing Solomon-like wisdom or the ravings of a psychotic.
The poetic style of the novel is another powerful tool. If you focus on the structure of the sentences, they are written as if from an ancient pen and, with the ancient themes of violence and war echoing throughout the pages, the prose and purpose seem to coalesce into one brilliant entity.
But, as a reader, the temerity of McCarthy's depictions eat at the moral core of the reader. In one breath, the reader can stand firm on their moral footing but then doubts are raised as to their own capacity for violence and if, truly, war is inevitable.
I loved and hated 'Blood Meridian' and it is the impact, both aesthetically and emotionally, that I have to praise. Even if it gave me nightmares.
Writing is important to me and, coincidentally, reading is just important. In order to excel as a writer, you have to read and examine how authors do what they do. The books on this page, some new and others old, all have impacted me in unimaginable ways both as a person and as a writer.