Review of The Samurai by Shūsaku Endō

I only feel comfortable rating this novel 3 stars because I enjoyed a few of his other novels so much more. 

To be clear, there was nothing bad about it. It was a historical novel about the clash of religion and politics between Japan and Europe. There is much discussion of power and faith, which are two of Endo’s primary concerns as an artist. Yet I hesitate to hail this work as a masterpiece because I did not feel drawn or even connected to the characters.

Unlike in The Sea and Poison and The Girl I Left Behind, I felt that Endo’s true powers lie in depicting stark human emotions and that this then represents one of the weaker offerings. Consider his book The Golden Country. It also deals with the struggles of missionaries in Japan, but it is a visceral and memorable account, compact and simple. Aside from the thesis statement dialogue in The Samurai I failed to find most of the scenes memorable. You can certainly read this work for its mature, intellectual discernment, for its historical accuracy or for the pristine prose, which never fails to convey a clear message, but I will turn to Endo’s other novels for more variety and more passionate portrayals of human beings. I look forward to delving into the other novels in his oeuvre.

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