Five Short Stories by Shūsaku Endō

Since being haunted by The Sea and Poison a couple of years ago, I have been meaning to read more by this Japanese author. The Japanese Literature Challenge, hosted by Bellezza, is going on currently, and I discovered my library had several titles by him—so everything lined up this year to revisit Endō.

Five by Endo (2000) is a slim volume that contains the following:

  1. Unzen
  2. A Fifty-Year-Old Man
  3. Japanese in Warsaw
  4. The Box
  5. The Case of Isobe

These short stories are each rather depressing, but not without interest. Endō writes with refinement and restraint yet still manages to unsettle you, whether it is with the allusions to marital betrayal (implicit in “The Case of Isobe,” explicit in “Japanese in Warsaw”) or the matter-of-fact descriptions of brutality in “Unzen.” Three of the stories carry in them the motif of Christian experience in Japan, mainly the suffering. He excels at juxtaposing morality and immorality, and in many of these stories, it is the hero who precedes the anti-hero and haunts the latter with their sacrifice, which the anti-hero feels incapable of equalling.

I wouldn’t say these are “must-reads.” They are decent short stories that help you contemplate life in another era and place. They left me feeling vaguely uncomfortable…hardly the gut-punch of Flannery O’Connor, but existing in something of the same mental space.