An accomplished piece of writing--as well as an instructive insight into Japanese reactions to Western religion, culture, and the tolls these reactions can exact. European in setting, except for a brief interlude in Japan, the novel is divided into three complementary sections, which illustrate the theme rather than share any common narrative. In the first part, Kudo, a young Japanese student--a Christian--has come to France, just after the end of WW II, to study on a scholarship provided by the Far Eastern Mission of the Roman Catholic Church. Staying with a French Christian fancily, Kudo is aware not only of the great gulf between the two cultures but is depressed by these good and well-meaning people's implicit wish that he become a priest who will return to Japan to proselytize. In the second section, set in the 17th century, Japanese apostate Araki Thomas, of whom the Church expects great things, is appalled by the brutal persecution of Christians in Japan. Araki feels that the Church in distant Rome, which does not appreciate the tremendous sacrifice Japanese Christians are making, is asking too much of Japanese converts. Tanaka, of the third and longest section, visits France on a research grant. He increasingly feels not only isolated from the French, but from his fellow Japanese in Paris, and doubts whether his projected study of the Marquis de Sade is even possible, given the great gulf he perceives between the two cultures. The futility of the whole experience is further underlined when he has to return prematurely to Japan because he has tuberculosis. Endo's delineation of isolation, of feeling terribly and irrevocably foreign, is moving and effective, with implications that go beyond the specificity of his Japanese characters to the wider problems of communications between all cultures. A thoughtful and timely book.