Shusaku Endo's novel Silence, first published in 1966, endures as one of the greatest works of twentieth-century Japanese literature. Its narrative of the persecution of Christians in seventeenth-century Japan raises uncomfortable questions about God and the ambiguity of faith in the midst of suffering and hostility.
Endo's Silence took internationally renowned visual artist Makoto Fujimura on a pilgrimage of grappling with the nature of art, the significance of pain and his own cultural heritage. His artistic faith journey overlaps with Endo's as he uncovers deep layers of meaning in Japanese history and literature, expressed in art both past and present. He finds connections to how faith is lived in contemporary contexts of trauma and glimpses of how the gospel is conveyed in Christ-hidden cultures.
In this world of pain and suffering, God often seems silent. Fujimura's reflections show that light is yet present in darkness, and that silence speaks with hidden beauty and truth.
Only Mako Fujimura could have written this book. It sheds light on a wealth of topics - a classic novel, Japanese culture, Martin Scorsese's filmmaking, the fine arts, theology, the enigmas of East and West - and leaves the reader with a startlingly new encounter with Christ.
My friend Mako Fujimura is one of the most thoughtful, sensitive and eloquent artists of this generation. Like his otherworldly and luminous paintings, his book Silence and Beauty is at once glorious and profound, an exquisite exploration of truth and beauty, silence and suffering. Give yourself and others the immeasurable gift of this gentle, inspiring treasure.
New York Times bestselling author
Fujimura's book is a brilliant blend of investigation and reflection. The reader learns about the compelling history of Christianity in Japan and its strangely enduring influence there, while at the same time being led into a profound meditation on the relation of Christian faith to contemporary culture. A truly impressive achievement.
Henry Luce III Professor of Philosophy and the Arts, Princeton Theological Seminary
How can we live in a world where we encounter suffering every day? Where is the voice of God when we doubt his goodness? It takes a very specific perspective to write beautiful prose about these questions, but in this book, Mako does just that - exploring the themes raised by Endo's novel and their continuing resonance across our difficult, anxious times. Silence and Beauty is a gift for us as we try to be the fragrance of Christ in a suffering world.
chief film critic, Christianity Today, assistant professor of English and humanities, The King's College
Fujimura's Silence and Beauty is a truly remarkable spiritual, theological and intellectual autobiography for our time. It will be of interest to a broad readership, not least of all those who still hear the disorienting and potentially transformational call to intercultural mission in the way of Jesus. Fujimura's musings on the Christ-hidden culture of Japan, his own story and contemporary culture are revelatory, and his layering of the Ground Zero theme functions like a Rembrandt primer out of which a sublime beauty and grace emerges.
-Thomas John Hastings,
research fellow, Kagawa Archives and Resource Center, former professor of practical theology, Tokyo Union Theological Seminary
When I read Shusaku Endo's Silence for the first time, I vowed that I would refuse to ever read anything written about it. I wanted to preserve the profound sense of mystery and beauty that the novel evoked in me. I am so happy now that I broke that vow by reading this wonderful book by Makoto Fujimura. Mako not only enhances and deepens the sense of mystery, but - as he has done so consistently in his visual works of art - he adds significantly to the beauty!
president emeritus, professor of faith and public life, Fuller Theological Seminary
Mako Fujimura offers us a moving and illuminating series of reflections on one of the most powerful novels ever written. He helps us to understand how Endo's tale of martyrdom lives in the tensions between East and West, faith and doubt, trust and betrayal. Above all, Fujimura enables us to sense that grace can live - and inspire new life - even in the midst of suffering.
Shusaku Endo's novel Silence makes us eyewitnesses to the brutality of Japan's seveneenth-century persecution that forced Christians to choose between silence and death. In his reflection Silence and Beauty, Makoto Fujimura masterfully appropriates that painful history for the challenges Christians face in this time between times - whether it be death in Syria and Iraq or increasing hostility in the West. Fujimura asks us to face our own silences and emerge understanding both the suffering and the beauty that silence calls forth.
-Roberta Green Ahmanson,
philanthropist and journalist
Makoto Fujimura is an internationally renowned artist, writer and speaker who serves as the director of Fuller Theological Seminary's Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts. He is also the founder of the International Arts Movement and served as a presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts from 2003 to 2009. His books include Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture and Culture Care.
Recognized worldwide as a cultural shaper, Fujimura's work has been exhibited at galleries including Dillon Gallery in New York, Sato Museum in Tokyo, The Contemporary Museum of Tokyo, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts Museum, Bentley Gallery in Arizona, Taikoo Place in Hong Kong and Vienna's Belvedere Museum. In 2011 the Fujimura Institute was established and launched the Qu4rtets, a collaboration between Fujimura, painter Bruce Herman, Duke theologian/pianist Jeremy Begbie and Yale composer Christopher Theofanidis, based on T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets.
" Fumi-e, for Fujimura, encapsulate the soul and struggle of modern Japan. The author paints a vivid portrait of Japanese cultural identity, especially Japanese concepts of beauty exemplified by hiddenness and silence. The story does not end there, though, for, as the author points out, what was revealed to him in Endo's worknamely, that God is in the silence."
" Silence and Beauty is a classic work of art. The book is a call to the world for reconciliation, understanding, and a depth of intimacy that can heal us and return us to each other and to a humble seeking of God in both the silence and beauty that surround us daily and attend us in the wake of our continual Ground Zeros."
" Silence and Beauty is an astounding work, a gift and challenge to all of us as well as a deeply felt love letter to Japan."
"Fujimuraa renowned visual artist and writer whose paintings hang in top world museumshas illuminated the Gospels to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. He features the ideal of beautyparticularly the beauty born of sacrifice believing that art 'can heal as well as confound.' With these reflections, he explores the overlap of sacrifice and redemption, those ways faith lives in contemporary circumstances of pain and suffering. His pensive writing invites us to interrogate our own silences in the face of truth. Fujimura's journey is woven with Endo's, who demonstrates 'how powerfully God speaks through silence,' how 'in the mystery of silence and beauty,' God is revealed to 'speak through our broken lives.'"
"In the foreword to Silence and Beauty, Philip Yancey writes, 'Only Mako Fujimura could have written this book.' Truly, the book seems written by a Providence that moved Fujimura through Japan and America at significant moments in history and gifted him with particular talents and insight that allowed him to piece together the tragedy of Nagasaki and 9/11 with the fictional apostasy of Endo's Father Rodrigues and the persecution of a 16th-century tea master. 'My writing seems refractive in nature,' Fujimura writes at the start of his book, preparing us for the book's layers of narrative, research, and reflection that remind us of his nihonga paintings. Because of its entangling of multiple piecesliterary and art criticism, sociological and psychological explorations of Japanese culture, and personal narrativeFujimura's book is best read both forwards and backwards. It should not be read once and put back on the shelf; rather, it should be drunk like a tonic, like the antidote or innoculative drug that he claims Endo's Silence itself is for our culture."
"It is the details that make the text an experience of beauty. They will also make Endo's Silence all the more wondrous."
"' Silence and Beauty' deserves to be read more than once."
"Shusaku Endo's novel Silence makes us eyewitnesses to the brutality of Japan's seveneenth-century persecution that forced Christians to choose between silence and death. In his reflection Silence and Beauty, Makoto Fujimura masterfully appropriates that painful history for the challenges Christians face in this time between timeswhether it be death in Syria and Iraq or increasing hostility in the West. Fujimura asks us to face our own silences and emerge understanding both the suffering and the beauty that silence calls forth."
"Makoto Fujimura's Silence and Beauty (IVP, 2016) artfully probes Shusaku Endo's famous novel Silence, and in doing so shows how God's truth bores through silence and darkness."
"Mako Fujimura offers us a moving and illuminating series of reflections on one of the most powerful novels ever written. He helps us to understand how Endo's tale of martyrdom lives in the tensions between East and West, faith and doubt, trust and betrayal. Above all, Fujimura enables us to sense that grace can liveand inspire new lifeeven in the midst of suffering."
"This year marks both the 50th birthday of Shusaku Endo's novel Silence and release of Martin Scorsese's film about this story of martyrs. Artist Makoto Fujimura used this to pen one of the most elegant nonfiction books in recent memory. We enter the world of Silence, and cannot help but be transformed by the beauty and suffering of those who have gone before."