WHEN I WHISTLE by Shusaku Endo


Email this review


The muted approach taken to charged subject matter in Endo's first English-translated novel, Silence (1978), is applied once more; but unlike the historical/ religious matrix of Silence, the scene here is instead contemporary. Eiichi Ozu is a young surgeon determined to compensate for the bad luck of having an influence-less father--he'll do this by playing the hospital pecking-order like a musical instrument. When a woman with serious stomach cancer is hospitalized, Ozu joins with another young doctor in starting her on an unproved drug that it just so happens is being developed by the pharmaceutical company run by the other doctor's father. Responsibility to the patient, Ozu reasons, will get him nowhere; a big experimental breakthrough, however, might do the trick. And Ozu's powerless father is drawn into the drama by accidentally finding that he knows the sick woman/guinea pig: she was the loved-from-afar schoolgirl whom his best friend, now dead, had a crush on all his short life. The father's sad, nostalgic memories of innocence and war contrast cleanly with the son's reprehensible ambitions--thus the moral basket in which the book collects. Endo, again, writes sparely, without fireworks or opacity, seeming sometimes like a French moralist, a Mauriac. A small story, webbed in dilemma, is apparently his modest, timeless focus; and he does this very well indeed.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1979
Publisher: Taplinger