Authors > Shusaku Endo – Wonderful Fool
Rumour has it that principal photography for director Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s masterpiece Silence is now complete, and postproduction work continues. It seems likely that the film will premiere at Cannes in 2016. Endo was not only a Christian, but a Catholic and several of his novels deal with this circumstance, rare as it is in Japan. Silence is a historical novel that deals with the persecution, martyrdom and apostasy of Portuguese Catholic missionaries and their converts in seventeenth century Japan. Published in 1966, the English translation which Peter Owen published three years later was greeted with acclaim similar to that in its native Japan, with Francis King hailing it as a masterpiece and Graham Greene naming it as one the three finest novels of the year.
The second Shusaku Endo book Peter Owen published in translation was the 1957 novel The Sea and Poison. Based on the historical incident in which several American prisoners of war were tortured in the name of medical science and killed in ‘medical’ experiments at Kyushu Imperial University’s medical school in southern Japan, the novel continues Endo’s preoccupation with serious themes concerning extreme human behaviour and the nature of suffering.
So it is something of a surprise, especially to a casual western audience, to hear that Shusaku Endo was an extremely funny man, a satirist who made a fortune presenting long-running humorous Japanese TV shows and was something of a household name. Many of the short stories in the collection Stained Glass Elegies have humorous – or at least wryly satirical – themes, and his recently reprinted novel Wonderful Fool is a lovely piece of gentle satire concerning the visit of Frenchman Gaston Bonaparte, a descendant of Napoleon, to a typical, modern Japanese family. The comically ungainly Gaston possesses simplicity and innocence – he is the ‘fool’ of the title. He wreaks havoc at first, but his simple love for others and irrepressible trust ends up transforming the people he meets, including a hardened professional killer whose name, strangely, is Mr Endo . . . The allegorical nature of the novel is obvious, but its lightness of touch and icy satire is in contrast to the weighty themes of Endo’s historical fiction. To order a copy of Wonderful Fool from AmazonUK, click this link: Wonderful Fool.
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