STAINED GLASS ELEGIES: Stories by Shusaku Endo


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Endo's impressive novels (When I Whistle, Silence, etc.) have wrapped themselves in powerful metaphorical situations and implicit autobiographical underpinnings--with Catholicism and illness the recurring themes. But, in this collection of eleven stories, autobiography is a bolder, more naked element--if no less artful than in the longer works. In three stories--""My Belongings,"" ""Unzen,"" and ""Mothers""--an authorial stand-in goes over the dreadful compromises of a life: a perfunctory baptism, a loveless arranged marriage, the neglect of a mother. And in every case the author's alter ego embraces the horror, the intolerable pain of these situations--adopting a severe, remarkable sort of Jansenism, reflecting Endo's sense of spiritual responsibility. A number of stories--""A Forty-Year-Old Man,"" ""The Day Before,"" ""Incredible Voyage""--have hospital/medical settings: reminders of Endo's own long experience with lung disease, his utter familiarity with the body in extremis. Some also recapitulate the themes of early martyrdom of Japanese Christians--previously dramatized in such Endo works as Silence. And the short form shows Endo to be a far less somber writer than the novels might suggest (""Incredible Voyage"" is very funny)--yet never less than a serious, morally self-probing one. Endo readers will welcome the opportunity to see him in this display of his more varied modes and moods.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1985
Publisher: Dodd, Mead