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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

A picture of Endo's life inferred from his fiction

Pulling together the strands of several key Endo stories (ones he selected for his collection of the best from across the course of his writing life, i.e., his life, for The Final Martyrs) plus the one novel of his I've read - Deep River - we can get an image of Endo himself - more so than with most fiction writers, as he examines time and again the same ideas and tropes, and he writes in what feels to be a semi-autobiographical manner: Endo, or "Endo," if you will, was born in Japanese occupied Manchruia; his parents had a difficult and loveless marriage, his mother was a complicated (and perhaps bipolar?) personality, and a devout Christian, in a land almost entirely Buddhist w/ a history of persecution of the Christian minority. His parents divorced, his mother died young, and Endo went to live w/ his father, newly married (with a child?), and had a very tepid relationship w/ his father. Did poorly in school, but somehow got on course to become a successful fiction writer; maintained his Catholic faith, but was frequently disillusioned - in particular by the priest closest to his mother, who had been a role model, but who abandoned the priesthood (this treated most fully in the story Shadows - which I think comes closest to the secret of Endo's life, that the priest had a romantic-sexual relationship with Endo's mother - the betrayal that truly challenged his faith). In his writing he is drawn to religious themes, particularly themes of testing of faith and maintaining faith through martyrdom. His marriage, from what we can infer, is cold and loveless, a marriage of convenience, and he finds much solace not from family but from animals, especially dogs and birds, in whom he sees human-like expression, particularly in their eyes: one of the characters on the journey to India in Deep River is much like this, as is the main character in several stories (e.g., The Fifty-Year-Old Main). In other words, his life has been productive, successful, yet said and incomplete in regard to relationships with other people, made up for to a degree by relationship to God, to the church, and communion with and empathy for animals, both wild and domesticated.

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