More schematic yet strong-souled work by the best French novelist who just happens to be Japanese. Jinpei Suda, a meteorologist retiring after 15 years with the Weather Bureau, is known as ""the Akadake Demon"" because of his long, intimate study of a dormant volcano, Akadake, that no one--except Suda--believes will ever erupt again. Then, when Suda has a stroke shortly after retiring, he's put into a hospital room that adjoins that of Father Durand, now defrocked but once a French missionary whose every attempt to convert the Japanese seemed to end in tragedy; he finally couldn't stand it any more and took to sin. And Durand, like Suda, isn't absolutely sure that Akadake won't one day blow up--""Because Evil itself is a volcano that will never be extinct."" The parallelism is hardly subtle: Suda's apprehension about his job (local businessmen want him to certify the volcano as dead so they can build a hotel on its slope) and a life bereft of love; Durand's despair, decrepitude, and jeremiads against his successor (a native Japanese priest who also plans to build on Akadake). But Endo cleverly doesn't let Akadake explode: Suda and Durand die, while the mountain just sits there and smokes. And Endo's perennial themes--God's silence, death as our only perception of evil, the alienation of illness--are kept off-base and wobbling, to fine effect. So, despite a weak translation and even greater thematic obviousness than in Silence or When I Whistle, the best Endo to be published here yet.