Saturday, January 04, 2003

Why ... does a Caribbean-born British writer consider Shusaku Endo to be a great personal influence upon his own work? The truth is I have travelled all the way to Japan, in part, to seek out an answer to this very question.... Endo's narrative style, with his deeply reflective first-person voices, has always appealed to me. Despite the intrusive "barrier" of translation, Endo's novels have always provided me with valuable instruction in how to locate character....

I may not share Endo's Catholicism, nor his difficult internal debate with the nature of his faith, but his social and moral vision, and the manner in which he has sought to turn his understanding of inflexible societies and ideologies into literature, has been an important influence upon me.... to my mind Endo's great gift to his readers, Japanese or otherwise, is to dignify ambiguity. To celebrate the puzzling grey area, and remind us that those old loyalties and certainties are, in our modern world, subject to fluidity and transformation irrespective of what the authorities above us — religious or otherwise — might have us believe.

— Caryl Phillips, in a short essay in today's UK Guardian, investigating the Japanese writer whose work he has found an unlikely source of inspiration.

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