'Lost in a storm without a chart' Endo Shusako's Father Rodrigues through the eyes of Jean-Paul Sartre
Leusden, P. van
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Endo Shusako's Silence (1966) addresses multiple, very substantial themes that touch upon the very notion of human existence. On the one hand, it is a deeply religious story revolving around big, classic Christian topics like sin, redemption, the presence (and absence) of God and oppression of the Catholic Church. On the other, it explores a clash between two fundamentally different cultures. Endo lets the two hands find each other in the protagonist, around whom all the central themes revolve. The utterly hostile - and alien - environment in which the Portuguese priest tries to survive lays bare inner struggles with his faith. Moreover, he is forced to redefine himself as a human being, as his extreme situation threatens his identity on both an emotional and rational level. It is this friction between earthly existence and commitment to the divine that will be examined here. What happens to a religious man when he is robbed of his assumed purpose in life and comes to question the meaning and truth behind it all? The theoretical framework in which the fiction will be placed is that of existentialism, more specifically the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre's status as 'poster boy' for existentialism as a philosophical movement has been widely acknowledged, and his ties to Japan have been subject of academic study. More relating to the content, Sartre's religiously laden, but simultaneously secularized theory allows for an enrichment of the tension between the worldly and unworldly that is present in the fiction. By confronting the Jesuit priest of Endo with a humanist philosophy, his thoughts and actions can be more understood as those of a mere man, not just a man of God. It should be stressed that this thesis is not an attempt to secularize the novel being discussed. However, it does aim to pull the fiction away from the theological discourse that has dominated it, in order to shed a more balanced light on a highly complex literary character. The question that lies at the heart of this thesis can be formulated as follows: how does Sartre define the concept of meaning, and to what degree can his definition be found in the priest character of Silence?