Between Reading and Writing
This study offers new insight into the intellectual and artistic development of the author by focusing on a lesser known yet significant body of work: his essays and critical texts. The book is, on the one hand, an attempt to follow the path of thinking delineated by Endō Shūsaku himself and, on the other, a methodological approach to literary studies based on the application of selected categories of Paul Ricœur’s hermeneutics. Thus, the book accentuates the problem of subjectivity and personhood in Endō’s works, ultimately exploring the question, Who is the one who asks about evil?
Chapter 5: The Enigma of Suffering in Deep River (1993)
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The Enigma of Suffering in Deep River (1993)
Deep River tells the story of a group of Japanese people who travel together to India in order to visit places related to the life of Buddha and the holy sites of Hinduism. Each character in the novel is presented in two dimensions: the present one, as a participant on the journey, and a past one, in which the reasons for joining the tour to India are explained. The trip itself offers the travellers a period to reminisce and to reflect on difficult situations in their lives. For each of them, this journey is loaded with a strong spiritual dimension.1
In research on the issue of evil in Endō’s works, Deep River does not often feature as a representative example of the writer’s interest in this problem. More attention is paid to Endō’s other, earlier novels and short stories that treat this issue in a more concentrated manner. However, due to the interpretative perspective adopted in this study, it is precisely this novel that seems to me particularly significant in an attempt to understand Endō’s ways of transferring into fiction the topics and problems that he earlier identified within his critical texts and essays.
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