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Samurai, The (Peter Owen Modern Classic) [Paperback]

Shusaku Endo
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Aug 2010 Peter Owen Modern Classic
A genuine classic in Japanese literature. Based on a true story this is the harrowing tale of four low-ranking samurai who set sail on an unprecedented mission: to bargain for a Catholic crusade through Japan in exchange for trading rights with the West. One of Endo's finest and most atmospheric works, The Samurai brilliantly conveys the shock of two alien civilisations meeting, the seedy undercurrents of 17th century Catholicism and the searing traumas of faith, both lost and newly discovered

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Peter Owen; Second Paperback edition (5 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0720613531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0720613537
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12 x 18 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 399,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A wry and sometimes bitter meditation on the nature of cultural values . . . Sensational events or powerful images are pictured rather than expressed, so that they come to resemble Japanese haiku. It is because of Endo s restraint that The Samurai is in the end so convincing. --Peter Ackroyd, Sunday Times

The kinds of shock experienced by the Samurai can be transposed into Endo s own coming to terms with the world outside Japan. He has been called the Japanese Graham Greene and indeed Greene is a great admirer. But Endo is really like no one else. --Anthony Thwaite, Observer

Genius . . . makes the imagination take wing. --Mail On Sunday

About the Author

Widely regarded as the most distinguished of contemporary Japanese writers and several times shortlisted for the Nobel Prize, SHUSAKU ENDO (1923 96) won many major literary prizes in his lifetime. His books have been translated into twenty-eight languages and include Silence, The Sea and Poison, Deep River, Scandal and The Samurai.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By Strobs
Format:Hardcover
Shusaku Endo's ability to tell a story is nowhere more apparent in this moving tale of Japan during a particularly difficult period of her history. Christianity has arrived in Japan and is slowly making in-roads into, what is for the westerner, an alien culture. Converts have been made but the various warlords who run Japan are anxious about foreign influences especially that of Christianity. In order to safe guard the interests of Japan two Samurai are sent to visit the pope in Rome in a long perilous journey. I will not ruin the story by tell you what happened but the results for these two Samurai were tragic and it was for many Japanese Christians. You simply must read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A grittily worldly spiritual masterpiece 10 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For me this is the greatest novel to come out of the twentieth century. It offers the most profound account I have seen of the relation between East and West, deconstructing both the glamourized martial arts myth and the imperialism of the Church of Rome through an encounter with the suffering Christ. If it is less well-known than Endo's Silence, that could be because Western readers prefer the latter's Graham Greene-style, sixth form theology of an all-embracing paradox.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, Profound; Endo's Other Masterpiece. 13 Jun 2001
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found "The Samurai" to be not quite as powerful and stark as "Silence," and the themes are similar--but this novel is more complex and nuanced in its characterization and scenario. Once again Endo emphasizes the lowly, humble nature of Christ (who is described repeatedly as "that emaciated man"), and how understanding this nature of God is the key for the spiritual awakenings of both the scheming Velasco and the humble samurai. At times I felt the point was a bit overdrawn and obvious, but by the book's second half most of my objections had disappeared; Endo's sheer skill at narration and portraying elegaic tragedy is unmatched.
This is still an excellent novel. Highly recommended, as both a historical adventure and a rumination on what it means to take up one's Cross and follow Jesus.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gloriously honorable tragedy 17 Jan 2000
By Scott Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
One of the biggest surprises I have received in the last year was "The Samurai", for good reason. Though it starts slowly, this novel is a gripping tale of determination, sacrifice, honor, deceit, and love, following a group of three Japanese noblemen and a Spanish priest in their trek from Japan to Rome. The priest hopes to be declared Bishop of Japan in order to oversee the missionary effort in that country, and is willing to sacrifice almost anything to conquer the religious intolerance of Japan at the time. The noblemen are trying to regain family lands by succeeding in their mission to establish trade between Japan and Nueva Espana. I could not put this novel down once the quest began, and I nearly wept as I finished it. I highly recommend this novel to one and all.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly Powerful 26 April 2001
By Xavier Thelakkatt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This very powerful novel known as a classic, evokes strong feelings and emotions in the reader, especially if he is a committed Christian. The background of the novel is the persecution of Christians in Japan in the early seventeenth century. There are lots of historical elements in the novel. The Samurai who undertook a voyage in 1613 seems to have kept a journal of his experiences abroad. Fr Luis Sotelo the model for Valesco is also a historical person. Besides, the author as the first Japanese to study abroad after the war acknowledges that there are also some autobiographical elements in the novel. The Samurai called Rokuemon Hasekura and Fr Velasco a missionary of the Franciscan Order are the main characters. Both are on a mission to the Nueva Espana, Espana and Rome as a Japanese envoy and his Spanish interpreter respectively. They plan to meet the King as well as the Pope. Both are eager to make their mission successful. Blinded by their own ambitions, both of them fail to see the truths before them. Both of them meet with disappointment and defeat. Soon they realize their mistakes, but too late to save their own lives. They gradually come to an understanding of what it really means to follow Christ, and embrace martyrdom.
There are various themes that are dealt with in the novel in a profoundly powerful manner. The snobbishness of the religion preached by the affluent clergy, the relevance of the sufferings and death of Christ to the ordinary people, the fickleness and pride of the Japanese people, the political strategies of the Japanese rulers, the ambitions of the foreign missionaries, the rivalries between missionary orders etc are only some of them.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Samauri - Life's Long Journey of faith 16 Sep 1999
By p.bland@canterbury.qld.edu.au - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a profoundly comforting book. Set in seventeenth century Japan, the novel tells a story about fidelity and courage. The hero of the book is a Samauri warrior sent on a fool's mission to Mexico and Europe. He is the pawn of larger, cynical forces whom he wisely distrusts. Despite this, however, he finds a faith that keeps him going and a courage that doesn't desert him - even at the point of death.
Christianity has few adherents in modern Japan but there are some four thousand martyrs in the church's troubled history in the islands. In an unsentimantal way, this story celebrates the courage and decency of the indigenous church. It is a story that makes one proud to be a human being, not ashamed of it. Few novels can make that claim.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful exploration of the nature of the gospel 5 Feb 2005
By J. Campbell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Shusaku Endo's novel The Samurai is a brilliant look at the ways which western missionary efforts in the 1600's profoundly failed to take root in the eastern world of feudal Japan. It is the story of Father Velasco, a Spanish Franciscan missionary, who attempts to cope with the difficulties of proselytization of an increasingly isolationist Japan. Father Velasco believes he can guarantee the continued success of missionary work in Japan if only he can forge a strong trade alliance with the ports of Nueva Espana (modern-day central Mexico). Not only is he concerned with the continued spread of the gospel through Japan, but also with the spread of the influence his own order, the Franciscan society, over against the Jesuits who also are working in Japan. Through the successes of trade alliances, Velasco hopes to secure for himself the preeminent position of Bishop of Japan.

The Samurai is simultaneously the story of a poor peasant samurai, chosen among a handful of his compatriots, to accompany Velasco on this mission to forge a trade alliance. They are told that their families will be rewarded (indeed, honored) by their betters nearer to the emperor if they were to succeed in their mission. The samurai, who has never been away from his humble marshland fief, is anguished at the prospect of leaving his family and his homeland, but merely obeys--a trait deeply valued by the Japanese. Several other samurai and a cadre of servants accompany him on this long mission. Though each of the men represent different points of view on the outside world (from deeply suspicious to overwhelmingly accepting), none are truly interested in Velasco's Christianity for its own sake. While several of the Japanese end up submitting to the Christian sacrament of baptism, they do so only in the interest of their mission and they retain a distaste for the suffering figure that Velasco (and indeed the whole western world) seem to worship.

The story progresses through the terrible difficulties faced by this strange mix of eastern and western travelers. They press on through violent storms at sea, unwelcome receptions at the various ports they visit, local uprisings throughout Nueva Espana, and eventually end up in Spain and then in Rome, all the while pressing every advantage they can find to complete their trade alliance.

Their are essentially two great strengths to the story. First, it is simply an excellent adventure story of a difficult mission that takes a group of strong but naive men halfway round the world on an impossible mission. The story moves quickly and their is plenty to enthrall the reader along the way. Second, and more importantly, the story explores the adventure from two points of view, both Velasco's and the samurai's. As the story approaches climax, the reader is drawn more and more to the center of conflict between the eastern and western mindsets. At the novel's conclusion, no real bridge between the two cultures is ever built and the reader is left alone, defeated by the chasm. But Endo leaves the reader also with another experience. The reader, through the samurai character, is nevertheless brought into contact with the divine in way that subtly but manifestly changes him. Though beyond conscious experience, the samurai comes into contact with the Divine Will in moments of profound supernatural mystery and deep human sorrow, and ultimately finds fellowship with Velasco (and ultimately, with God) only in this experience. God triumphs in the shadowy mists of shared humanity that transcend culture.

The Samurai should be read by all those who sense a deepening divide growing between so-called "tribes" in the postmodern world. Endo's story is for the reader a poignant reminder of men's inability to bridge the deep cultural fissures we create for ourselves as well as a reminder of God's ability to do just that in the suffering figure who bore the cross.
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