Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering Info

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  • 2017 Logos Bookstore Association Award
    for Christianity/Culture
  • 2017 Dallas Willard Center Book Award
    Finalist
  • Foreword INDIES 2016 Book of the Year Awards
    Finalist
  • World Magazine's Best Books of 2016 Short
    List
  • 2016 Aldersgate Prize by the John Wesley Honors College at
    Indiana Wesleyan University
  • Evangelical Christian Publishers
    Association Top Shelf Book Cover Award
  • 14th Annual Outreach
    Magazine Resource of the Year, Counseling and
    Relationships
  • Missio Alliance Essential Reading List of
    2016
Shusaku Endo's novel Silence, first published in
1966, endures as one of the greatest works of twentieth-century
Japanese literature. Its narrative of the persecution of Christians in
seventeenth-century Japan raises uncomfortable questions about God and
the ambiguity of faith in the midst of suffering and hostility. Endo's
Silence took internationally renowned visual artist Makoto
Fujimura on a pilgrimage of grappling with the nature of art, the
significance of pain and his own cultural heritage. His artistic faith
journey overlaps with Endo's as he uncovers deep layers of meaning in
Japanese history and literature, expressed in art both past and present.
He finds connections to how faith is lived in contemporary contexts of
trauma and glimpses of how the gospel is conveyed in Christ-hidden
cultures. In this world of pain and suffering, God often seems silent.
Fujimura's reflections show that light is yet present in darkness, and
that silence speaks with hidden beauty and truth.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering:

5

Apr 15, 2017

This book is incredible! Wow. I've just been blown away by Fujimura's insight on the Japanese culture, art, and spirit and how he weaves this into grace, Christ's death, and beauty. I pretty much highlighted almost every part of this book! I have so many ideas to ponder, ideas that are provocative, moving, and heartbreaking. There is the aspect of gaining insight into the Japanese people and how they are trapped within their trauma, unable to escape, but all the while have the potential to share This book is incredible! Wow. I've just been blown away by Fujimura's insight on the Japanese culture, art, and spirit and how he weaves this into grace, Christ's death, and beauty. I pretty much highlighted almost every part of this book! I have so many ideas to ponder, ideas that are provocative, moving, and heartbreaking. There is the aspect of gaining insight into the Japanese people and how they are trapped within their trauma, unable to escape, but all the while have the potential to share something unique and powerful with the world. There is the aspect of seeing how this concept of "silence" is pregnant with hidden pain, but also a brokenness that can lead to healing. There is defiance, there is sacrifice, there is trauma, there is beauty, there is the voice of God all wrapped up in this one concept: silence.

This book was also about art and the power to bring healing to the cultures, and that so much resonated with my spirit. Fujimura is a fellow warrior poet who understands the struggle of a Christian artist in a fallen world. By analyzing Endo's work he also is showing how art has the means by which we can cross borders, cultures, and break through to the hearts of the people. Endo's book Silence is an international success, and so Fujimura outlines why exactly this is, and how all Christian artists have this power and, I would say, responsibility.

I was just blown away by how deep he goes into the arts, Japan, Christianity, and suffering. It is heady and profound, but it is also Scriptural, as we are invited into the mystery of God, both His power and grace, both His severity and His kindness. It makes me think of the line of verse from a Michael Card song: "For the power of paradox opens your eyes."

I am going to be taking much of this books ideas into my life from now on. Much I shall be pondering. I am grateful for the Lord's use of Makato Fujimura's insight and I pray that God would be continually glorified through it! ...more
5

Jul 21, 2016

Summary: A "layered" reflection on Shusako Endo's Silence by a Japanese-American artist that explores the Christian experience of persecution in Japan, and the connections between silence, suffering, and beauty, that may draw contemporary Japanese to faith.

It is said that you cannot judge a book by its cover. Yet my very first encounter with this book suggested I was in for something special as I looked at a cover with a pure white background, a couple of Japanese characters, and a translucent Summary: A "layered" reflection on Shusako Endo's Silence by a Japanese-American artist that explores the Christian experience of persecution in Japan, and the connections between silence, suffering, and beauty, that may draw contemporary Japanese to faith.

It is said that you cannot judge a book by its cover. Yet my very first encounter with this book suggested I was in for something special as I looked at a cover with a pure white background, a couple of Japanese characters, and a translucent dust jacket with the the words "Silence and Beauty" superimposed on those characters. I opened the book to find inside papers that I believe are a work of the artist/author. And what I found between the covers was a profound reflection upon Shusako Endo's Silence.

Makoto Fujimura is an internationally renown artist who paints in the ancient Japanese technique of nihonga, which involves the pulverizing of various minerals mixed into a binder and applied in as many as one hundred layers onto art papers. He begins his work by describing his encounter with Endo's work having a similar "pulverizing" effect in his life as he encountered the suffering of Christian martyrs and the attempt to shame apostatizers by having them walk on fumi-e (bronze images of the crucified Christ, or the Virgin Mary). The novel revolves around Father Rodrigues, who struggles between martyrdom, and saving others from suffering by walking on fumi-e, and the interior struggle with the "silence" of God in the face of such suffering.

From here, Fujimura explores layers of meaning as he interweaves his own artistic journey, and the struggle to be faithful to Christ in an art world often hostile to faith. He also explores Japanese culture and the connections between "the chrysanthemum and the sword", between kindness and cruelty, beauty and suffering, and how this has shaped Japanese consciousness, art, and literature. Along the way, he reflects on the paradox of the fumi-e, at once a symbol of shame, and yet by the very act of those who step on Christ, a proclamation of the cross. And with this, he uncovers a reality with which we often struggle but do not find easy to admit, living between faithfulness and denial. The fumi-e, a symbol of shame, becomes a symbol of hope, for Father Rodrigues, and for us.

I struggled at first in understanding what Fujimura was doing until I grasped that rather than a linear exposition of Endo's work, this was a layered reflection, returning to the canvas again and again adding new insights and reflections to what he'd already written. Fujimura layers history, story, and biography together. Nagasaki was "Ground Zero" for the first martyrdoms of Christians in the Japanese persecution, the location of persecution in Silence, and the site of the second atomic bombing on August 9, 1945. Ground Zero was a church where many were worshiping. Fujimura interweaves his own "Ground Zero" experience of having a studio and a loft apartment in the shadow of the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the struggle with suffering, darkness and lament, and the paradox of beauty that may arise from these.

The book includes a summary of Endo's book for those who have not read it. Fujimura suggests, and I would agree, reading Endo's book first. I read Silence a number of years ago and want to re-read it, and perhaps re-read Fujimura's book as well. He also discusses Endo's relationship in two appendices to two other Japanese authors of note, Yasunari Kawabata and Kenzaburo Oe. There is a glossary of Japanese terms which is quite helpful, and which you want to have your thumb in as you read.

The book concludes with some thoughtful observations about Christian mission in Japan (which I think are also applicable in the West) that brings brokenness and beauty together, in place of a church that has often seem more focused on legalism. He speaks of the hunger for beauty in Japanese culture, the longing for liberation from fumi-e, and the power of the Christian message to bring this. These are his concluding words:

"Endo shows that God speaks through silence. 'Even if he had been silent, my life until this day would have spoken of him.' In the mystery of silence and beauty God speaks through our broken lives facing our Ground Zero. In the layers revealed through the worn-smooth surface of a fumi-e is a true portrait of Christ; Japan's unique hidden culture offers it as a gift to the world."

In Silence and Beauty, what Fujimura has done is explore those layers and revealed this gift.

____________________________

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. ...more
3

May 23, 2017

With the release of Martin Scorsese's movie this year, I wanted to reread Silence and also this examination of the novel by Fujimura, whose art I admire. I'm glad I did. Fujimura's position as a Japanese-American Christian artist gives him unique insight into Shusako Endo's motivations and perspectives in writing Silence: things like the visual nature of Japanese culture, the importance of never standing out, the fact that even the Japanese word used for Christianity designates it as an outsider With the release of Martin Scorsese's movie this year, I wanted to reread Silence and also this examination of the novel by Fujimura, whose art I admire. I'm glad I did. Fujimura's position as a Japanese-American Christian artist gives him unique insight into Shusako Endo's motivations and perspectives in writing Silence: things like the visual nature of Japanese culture, the importance of never standing out, the fact that even the Japanese word used for Christianity designates it as an outsider culture. All these things illuminate and expand on the complexities of Endo's novel and Fujimura explains them well. The main weakness in the book, imo, is that Fujimura spends way too much time talking about his own conversion and understanding of theology in a way that will be uninteresting or accessible to non-Christians. ...more
5

May 31, 2019

I read this immediately after finishing Endo's Silence. This book should be required reading for anyone interested in Silence or in how Japan and Christianity relate to one another. He also advised Martin Scorsese before he directed the movie version of Silence, which should also be watched after reading Silence. It is very faithful to the book.

I had the privilege of hearing Fujimura speak at a Society for Classical Learning conference four years ago and got to speak to him for a minute when he I read this immediately after finishing Endo's Silence. This book should be required reading for anyone interested in Silence or in how Japan and Christianity relate to one another. He also advised Martin Scorsese before he directed the movie version of Silence, which should also be watched after reading Silence. It is very faithful to the book.

I had the privilege of hearing Fujimura speak at a Society for Classical Learning conference four years ago and got to speak to him for a minute when he autographed my copy of his book.

I highly recommend Silence and Beauty and must admit I learned more about Japanese culture and their worldview in these 200+ pages than anything I had read before. ...more
5

Apr 13, 2017

I actually ran out of sticky page markers and had to switch to post-its before the end. Sign of a book well read! An absolutely transformative book that I will be reflecting upon for a very long time. I really want to read his other books now. I actually ran out of sticky page markers and had to switch to post-its before the end. Sign of a book well read! An absolutely transformative book that I will be reflecting upon for a very long time. ♥ I really want to read his other books now. ...more
5

Feb 09, 2017

"Every creative act can be a sacramental act to reach the divine and bridge the divide and brokenness created in society" (209).Silence and Beauty is a fascinating, thoughtful, wonderful book. Mako uses Endo's novel Silence, and Scorcese's film version, as a starting point to talk about history, Christianity, and Japanese culture. He also shares glimpses of his own journey in America and Japan.

As part of this meandering (in a good way) musing, Mako presents an excellent explanation for why the "Every creative act can be a sacramental act to reach the divine and bridge the divide and brokenness created in society" (209).Silence and Beauty is a fascinating, thoughtful, wonderful book. Mako uses Endo's novel Silence, and Scorcese's film version, as a starting point to talk about history, Christianity, and Japanese culture. He also shares glimpses of his own journey in America and Japan.

As part of this meandering (in a good way) musing, Mako presents an excellent explanation for why the visual arts struggle to find a place in American churches. He suggests that the "many Christians who make black-and-white judgments about others, especially in regard to failures of faith" have created a context in which "artists sense the disappearance of margins, cultural estuaries where they can be allowed to explore the confluence of the ambiguous on the beautiful, and where the reality of faith is always shifting" (81-82). I find that to be really helpful, the idea of "cultural estuaries" where the arts thrive, and the fact that the Western obsessions with order, structure, and clarity reduce that space, and thus reduce the ways in which artists might contribute to the Christian life of a community.

It was a surprise at the end of the book that Mako moves the discussion to his hopes and dreams for Japan in the future. I appreciated his metaphor of soil requiring multiple layers of death to become productive; in the same way, Mako prays that the many layers of death Japan has endured over hundreds of years (including religious persecution, atomic blasts, nuclear meltdown) will eventually be seen as preparing the ground for great fruitfulness that will reach out to the rest of the world. Beautiful.

This book changed my perspective on many things, and it did so not in a dogmatic, "logical" way, but in the quiet, reflective voice of a friend sharing from his heart. I highly recommend this book, even without having experience of Endo's novel or Scorcese's film (I haven't yet read or seen either). ...more
5

Apr 16, 2016

Short Review: Silence and Beauty is a profound reflection on the book Silence by Shusaku Endo, the role of art and beauty in Christianity, and a reflection of the impact of Christianity on the culture of Japan. I am not going to say tons more about it now because I have purchase the paperback copy of Silence (I listened to it on audiobook the last time I read it) and I am going to reread Silence and Beauty again.

Seriously, this is an excellent book. As a side note, I purchase the hardcover Short Review: Silence and Beauty is a profound reflection on the book Silence by Shusaku Endo, the role of art and beauty in Christianity, and a reflection of the impact of Christianity on the culture of Japan. I am not going to say tons more about it now because I have purchase the paperback copy of Silence (I listened to it on audiobook the last time I read it) and I am going to reread Silence and Beauty again.

Seriously, this is an excellent book. As a side note, I purchase the hardcover because I was encouraged to get it that way. It has a nice dust jacket and full color images in the center. I re-purchased the Kindle edition because I prefer ebooks and I want to highlight passages for help in writing another review. The Kindle edition has the images in line with where they are talked about in the text. And if you are reading on a color tablet, then the images are in color. Obviously if you reading on a black and white eink reader, the images are black and white.

My full initial review is on my blog at http://bookwi.se/silence-beauty/

second review is at http://bookwi.se/silence-and-beauty/ ...more
5

Oct 08, 2016

Wonderful. Fujimura makes the fumi-e the center of Japanese culture in a compelling and extended argument and illustration. The reality of human trauma, the hidden nature of broken faith, and the beauty of silence are "an unfolding plan that we can only access through this cultural estuary called Japan."

Part theology, part artistic philosophy, part literary criticism: this book is worth your while.
5

Aug 10, 2019

Wow. This book is about art, literature, culture, suffering and trauma, Japan, the gospel...Almost every page in my book is marked. I had high expectations before I began reading it and it exceeded them.
4

Feb 09, 2019

Fujimura seems to write (consciously or not, it's unclear) much like his nihonga style of art - many rich and changinglayers reveal prose on top of autobiography, biography, cultural explanation, philosophical musings, and faith reflections. His is a unique style and one that took me several chapters to appreciate, but reading it with the context of his artistic work helped me enjoy his layered, sometimes abstract, contemplations more.

The last two chapters were excellent, and his reflections on Fujimura seems to write (consciously or not, it's unclear) much like his nihonga style of art - many rich and changing layers reveal prose on top of autobiography, biography, cultural explanation, philosophical musings, and faith reflections. His is a unique style and one that took me several chapters to appreciate, but reading it with the context of his artistic work helped me enjoy his layered, sometimes abstract, contemplations more.

The last two chapters were excellent, and his reflections on Japan and the fumi-e culture scattered throughout will be continued food for thought. ...more
5

Jul 19, 2016


C.S. Lewis described our world as “the Kingdom of Noise,” and he composed a psalm in the praise of noise from the pen of Senior Tempter, Screwtape, in his letter to a young apprentice. By contrast, artist Makoto Fujimura praises the beauty of silence particularly in the context of Japanese culture. “Perhaps in no other culture is a single word so relevant as silence is to Japan. In Japan, silence is beauty and beauty is silent.”

In his analysis of Shusako Endo’s global best-seller, Silence,
C.S. Lewis described our world as “the Kingdom of Noise,” and he composed a psalm in the praise of noise from the pen of Senior Tempter, Screwtape, in his letter to a young apprentice. By contrast, artist Makoto Fujimura praises the beauty of silence particularly in the context of Japanese culture. “Perhaps in no other culture is a single word so relevant as silence is to Japan. In Japan, silence is beauty and beauty is silent.”

In his analysis of Shusako Endo’s global best-seller, Silence, Fujimura deals with the book’s uneasy questions about the nature of suffering, faith, betrayal, and service to a God who, at times, chooses to remain silent. Set in the 17th century during a period of intense persecution of Christians, Silence traces the ministry of Father Sebastian Rodrigues, a Portuguese priest who traveled to Japan to investigate rumors that a senior missionary had apostatized under torture.

As a bicultural Japanese American, Makoto Fujimura is uniquely positioned to ponder Endo’s assertion that Christianity is ill-suited to take root in the “mud swamp” of Japan — especially since this is where his own faith journey began. As an artist who paints using layers of metal and natural pigments to create visual beauty, he is also uniquely qualified to probe the layers of meaning in Endo’s narrative arc.

It would be ideal to read Silence and Beauty in concert with Endo’s novel, but even with a year between my reading of the two books, I found that revisiting the fictional work through Fujimura’s eyes reawakened and deepened my interaction with and appreciation for Silence as a reflection on present-day culture:

A major theme that recurs throughout Endo’s Silence, is the trampling of the fumi-e: an icon of Christ which Japanese Christians were forced to step on to show their rejection of the faith. Silence and Beauty expands on the theme, helping the reader to see that even those of us who are free to do otherwise may find ourselves trampling God and the people most dear to us. Father Rodrigues’s definition of sin helps me to see Fujimura’s point:
“Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another – to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind.”
2. Fujimura and Endo both ponder the nature of faithfulness. Am I faithful to Christ if I am publicly disgraced, and yet privately effective in prayer, ministry and relationships? Am I more faithful to Christ if I have a recognized role in society as His representative, but privately have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing to help the people around me? Endo’s Silence was an agonizing read for me with Rodrigues lamenting the silence of God in his own experience while trying to be a spiritual leader in a cultural context that was completely alien to him — all the while with the threat of torture or imprisonment hanging over him.

Of course, I wanted him to come through the testing with triumph and go on to lead a Great Awakening among the Japanese because of his heroic faith. That’s not how it ended, and I’m still trying to reconcile this.

3. A further theme of Silence and Beauty is the process of making peace with ambiguity. It is the tendency of Christians (particularly Western Christians) to draw a hard line between faith and doubt — a faith-is-good-doubt-is-bad- dichotomy. Makoto underlines Endo’s exposé of this flawed logic for, “it does not express faith in God but instead a faith in clarity and, . . . ‘our lust for certainty.'”

4. As Endo reached back in history to the story of the apostates of the 17th century, Fujimura picks up the thread and carries it forward to his Ground Zero experience on September 11, 2001 with his studio a few blocks away from the World Trade Center. Just as the fumi-e represents all of our betrayals and our failures of faith, Father Rodrigues’s intense suffering and wrestling with God represents for us all of our personal Ground Zero realities. Silence and Beauty offers the redemptive truth that it is only through “resilient prayer” and forgiveness that we move through and eventually beyond our trauma. In the end, then, it is only the Gospel that will heal and transform a heart — or a nation.

//

This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” ...more
4

May 06, 2018

In some ways, harder to get through than the original subject matter but an excellent companion read. Helps with a deeper and more connected understanding of the underlying japanese cultural ideals that play out through the novel.
5

Mar 09, 2017

Essential reading when digging into Endo's Silence but he also goes into more on culture care, Japanese culture and how the Gospel is hidden there, and the beauty of suffering.
3

Aug 11, 2018

I really wanted to enjoy this read more than I did.

It's a well-informed Protestant Japanese take on Endo's Silence, through the lenses of an important visual artist. Overall, Fujimura will enrich any future reread's of Silence: the rich intellectual history of Japan, an informative outlook on Endo's life, and the background of the Meiji restoration will change how you look at the great novel.

The problem with this book is exactly why its valuable: its a Protestant take on a Jesuit novel. The I really wanted to enjoy this read more than I did.

It's a well-informed Protestant Japanese take on Endo's Silence, through the lenses of an important visual artist. Overall, Fujimura will enrich any future reread's of Silence: the rich intellectual history of Japan, an informative outlook on Endo's life, and the background of the Meiji restoration will change how you look at the great novel.

The problem with this book is exactly why its valuable: its a Protestant take on a Jesuit novel. The word "Jesuit" may have been mentioned a whopping three times throughout the 215 pages. This dehibilitates the book. Endo wasn't just Jesuitical, this books screams the theology of Ignatius. While Fujimura did paint Christ in the kenotic way of the Jesuit tradition, it left out the rest of Ignatian theology, where Silence finds its roots.

Sometimes it seems as if Fujimura even forgot Endo was Catholic. The Virgin Mary, ever so important to Catholics, especially ones who prefer a feminine Christ (as Fujimura argues), was scarcely mentioned. And when Mary was mentioned, it was only in passing. Mary plays a critical role in Endo's novel and leaving her out of this contemplation Protestantizes Endo's novel.

In summary, Silence is a deeply Catholic novel that owes itself to its Jesuit origins and Marian devotion, both of which find themselves completely ignored in this reflection. ...more
4

Feb 06, 2017

This is a beautiful book about a truly important book - Silence. Which is appropriate enough, in the light of the title. Fujimura writes evocatively and movingly - of his own Christian testimony, his own parallels as a Japanese Christian with Shusako Endo, and his appreciation of Endo's remarkable novel.

The key issue for both writers is the place of suffering within Christian theology and experience. And their insights, while far from comfortable or neat, are very helpful. Fujimura's style is This is a beautiful book about a truly important book - Silence. Which is appropriate enough, in the light of the title. Fujimura writes evocatively and movingly - of his own Christian testimony, his own parallels as a Japanese Christian with Shusako Endo, and his appreciation of Endo's remarkable novel.

The key issue for both writers is the place of suffering within Christian theology and experience. And their insights, while far from comfortable or neat, are very helpful. Fujimura's style is sometimes elusive and circular - perhaps reflecting his Asian heritage, and artistic sensibilities - which is not perhaps everyone's cup of tea. But as a stimulus for reflection, prayer and perseverance, as well as an aide to thoughtful engagement with an essential 20th Century novel (Silence has been SO important to my own journey) this is an excellent book and I thoroughly commend it. It has also helped me gain insight into Fujimura's remarkable art itself.

For what it's worth, I would read this only after reading the novel, or perhaps Martin Scorsese's new movie. ...more
4

Oct 17, 2016

This is a very fine book indeed, though you need a heads-up before you decide to dive in. Mako Fujimura has written what amounts to an improvisational meditation on Shusaku Endo's remarkable novel "Silence." I can't imagine reading this book without having first read "Silence" (and Mako says as much in his introduction), so in taking it on you're really committing yourself to two books.

Not that this is a problem. "Silence" is a stunner, often compared to Graham Greene's "The Power and the This is a very fine book indeed, though you need a heads-up before you decide to dive in. Mako Fujimura has written what amounts to an improvisational meditation on Shusaku Endo's remarkable novel "Silence." I can't imagine reading this book without having first read "Silence" (and Mako says as much in his introduction), so in taking it on you're really committing yourself to two books.

Not that this is a problem. "Silence" is a stunner, often compared to Graham Greene's "The Power and the Glory." No surprise there, as Endo and Greene very much admired each other, and both were Catholic writers who struggled in the faith that very much shaped them.

What Mako does here, though, shines so much light on everything that Endo (and Greene...) struggled with. This is a meditation on hiddenness, faith, silence, suffering, beauty, and hope. Above all, beauty and hope. But what else would you expect from one of the most compelling visual artists of our time?

Read "Silence," and then read "Silence and Beauty." Trust me on this. ...more
5

Dec 04, 2016

This is one of the most patient reflections on a novel I've ever read. Fujimura extends the significance of Endo's "Silence" to help navigate the striking shipwreck of 2016 such that even in sinking our sails may billow.

Tremendously helpful.
5

Dec 19, 2018

A must-read with Shusako Endo's book, Silence. This book gave me a deeper understanding of the persecuted Christian's faith and how suffering, and even failure, glorifies God. Fujimura also opens the doors to understanding Japanese culture and art. An amazing read!
4

Apr 22, 2019

This was a great read during Holy Week. I was moved by the explication of the Gospel that is bigger than suffering and trauma ("the Ground-Zero realities of our lives") in the context of the layered exploration of the history of Christian missions in Japan, post-WWII Japanese artists (primarily Endo but also others, such Yasunari Kawabata, and the author's own spiritual journey and experiences. I appreciated the insights into Japanese culture as well.
3

Apr 06, 2017

I struggled with this book simply because the author often presented far more ambiguity than I can deal with. I love to read books that deal with depth, especially of the spiritual and psychosocial kind, but his points seemed to go around and around and eluded a clear foundation for me. I appreciated his in-depth analysis of the Japanese culture and the psychological demands upon them as a people. Just this fact alone, I bumped up my rating to three stars. Perhaps if I were to read Endo's book, I struggled with this book simply because the author often presented far more ambiguity than I can deal with. I love to read books that deal with depth, especially of the spiritual and psychosocial kind, but his points seemed to go around and around and eluded a clear foundation for me. I appreciated his in-depth analysis of the Japanese culture and the psychological demands upon them as a people. Just this fact alone, I bumped up my rating to three stars. Perhaps if I were to read Endo's book, Silence, this book might have made more sense to me. ...more
3

Oct 19, 2017

I feel like an ogre giving this three stars. Fujimura goes into a lot of personal detail and philosophical musing not directly related to the book Silence, and much of it I found far too idiosyncratic to really enjoy. His fans really, really like this book, but I suspect many of them know Fujimura personally, and so are interested in what, to me, was far too specific to Fujimura to be of general interest.

The parts directly related to Silence are very good, but it was hard to wade through all the I feel like an ogre giving this three stars. Fujimura goes into a lot of personal detail and philosophical musing not directly related to the book Silence, and much of it I found far too idiosyncratic to really enjoy. His fans really, really like this book, but I suspect many of them know Fujimura personally, and so are interested in what, to me, was far too specific to Fujimura to be of general interest.

The parts directly related to Silence are very good, but it was hard to wade through all the other stuff to get to them. Still, I can say that Silence and Beauty helped me better understand Silence, which was difficult to read; Fujimura gave me a broader perspective and pointed out the redemptive qualities of a terrible, terrible period in the history of Christian faith and missions, and, even more so, of the historical novel Endo wrote about it. ...more
5

Feb 05, 2018

Fujimura weaves together - with one uniting thread being Shusaku Endo's novel Silence - Japanese culture since the Tokugawa era, Japanese art as it expresses a certain hiddenness or ambiguity, and Fujimura's own journey as a Christian, a Japanese "outsider", and an artist.

This book is deeply personal and full of compassion - in the form of grief and hope - for Japanese culture. Fujimura's other books, which I hope to read, probably flesh this out more, as it seems his interest is broadly in Fujimura weaves together - with one uniting thread being Shusaku Endo's novel Silence - Japanese culture since the Tokugawa era, Japanese art as it expresses a certain hiddenness or ambiguity, and Fujimura's own journey as a Christian, a Japanese "outsider", and an artist.

This book is deeply personal and full of compassion - in the form of grief and hope - for Japanese culture. Fujimura's other books, which I hope to read, probably flesh this out more, as it seems his interest is broadly in contextualizing the Gospel in every culture. But for him Japan inherently carries a special ability, maybe a much-sought key, to re-relate the Gospel to other cultures through their "Ground Zeros" because of its own tragic history. There is suffering and trauma everywhere, and in those darkest places and hours, a re-telling of the suffering of Christ can bring healing. Japanese culture may be able to re-tell that event and the implications of it in a relevant and healing way because of, and in spite of, its grievous past and its surprising and unique obsession with beauty.

I'll need to read this book again, I think, to understand it more fully. And perhaps I'll need to re-read Silence, since this book has opened up many, many more doors into understanding Endo's work than I ever thought.

2/20/18, After further thought:

Fujimura, I don't think, delineates this specifically in his writing of this book, but what I gleaned essentially from reading it is a new understanding of Art. (For others in the Art world, the following is probably obvious, but for me it is a revelation.) And that is that the beauty of Art is in its honest expression through imperfect individuals. What's magical about it is that when it is truly Art, it is inspired by Something outside the individual, yet through the individual. Poets talk of the Muse, etc. I believe this inspiration is from the Wisdom of heaven (Proverbs from the Bible speaks of it). But Art is not perfect as though straight from the perfection and holiness of heaven; it is inspired by the Wisdom of heaven, but it is allowed to be imperfectly expressed through sin-carrying people. It is beautiful in its honesty, and it is glorifying to the Perfect One - the Master Creator and Designer of All. Art is a gracious act of Beauty, born of a place of perfection and produced through vessels of vulnerability and limitation. This is what makes it Lovely.

I think this is sort of what Fujimura is getting at with regards to Japan, as well, in this book, Silence and Beauty. Japan is ravaged by multiple "ground zeros" and by sin. It is very scarred and its people are hurting and resorting to extreme behaviors. But there is a Beauty being silently and ambiguously expressed through and in spite of this terrible, tragic, vulnerability. This ability to identify and create and live this Beauty is glorifying to the Beautiful One - Jesus, who was the Word that spoke Beauty into existence. It was made for, by, and through him. His name is being glorified throughout Japan's history in a rebellious refusal to be squelched, in an impossible marsh land of despair (according to Endo). The Life of his holiness cannot be stomped out. It can be stomped on and worn smooth (fumie), but in the worn-ness itself, in the suffering itself, the beauty of his Love comes through. When we are identifying with Jesus, we are identifying with him in his suffering. While his Creation demonstrates his glory and perfection, it is his suffering that demonstrates the force of his Love. This Love is his willingness to stoop and be among us in our mess. He makes things beautiful from inside the mess. He makes Japan beautiful from inside the woundedness. The artists know this, or at least long for this knowledge. ...more
4

Feb 07, 2019

I can't decide whether or not I want to rate this 4/5 stars or 3.5/5 stars. This was such an interesting and fascinating read. It's going to be so hard to put down all my thoughts on it, especially since it took a while for me to read it and I neglected to write down my thoughts when I was reading the beginning! I know I won't be able to fully explain what I thought well, but I just want to make a few notes on it even if just for my own sake.
First off, you can tell this book was written by an I can't decide whether or not I want to rate this 4/5 stars or 3.5/5 stars. This was such an interesting and fascinating read. It's going to be so hard to put down all my thoughts on it, especially since it took a while for me to read it and I neglected to write down my thoughts when I was reading the beginning! I know I won't be able to fully explain what I thought well, but I just want to make a few notes on it even if just for my own sake.
First off, you can tell this book was written by an artist. The way he writes and the way he analyzes everything is done in such an artist-way, if that makes any sense! I felt like sometimes, though, the information wasn't always super organized or clear. And occasionally he would mention something very interesting, or make a connection, but without explaining it in depth (or at least not in as much depth as I would've liked). The connections he made and the different angles with which he looked at things (such as the fumi-e) were very interesting. However, I didn't always quite fully understand or grasp them. For instance, sometimes I felt as though he applied the fumi-e as an idea in different ways, which was very interesting and enlightening, but also somewhat confusing and hard to always fully grasp or reconcile. BUT that may be more my problem than anything, especially since I have not yet actually read Silence.
I really loved when he explored in depth the artisans of the 16th century such as Sen no Rikyu and Hasegawa Tohaku, and now I honestly really want to learn more about these people. And his insights into Japanese culture in general were really interesting. I loved the hopefulness that he emphasized in this whole discussion about Japan and Endo's Silence.
AND AGAIN, this was an incredibly fascinating read and I'm so glad I read it. So much of what Fujimura said, even the things that left me a little bit stumped and confused or not quite sure if I agreed with him, were very thought-provoking and gave me A LOT to chew on. I also believe that reading this has made me more mentally and emotionally ready to read Silence. And so, because of this book, I plan on reading Silence, and also hopefully some of the other books written by Fujimura.

There's a lot more I could say about this, but I'm bad with in-depth, clear reviews (or at least it takes a long time for me to write one), so I'll just end with saying that I am VERY glad I read Silence and Beauty, and I'm very sorry if my review was confusing and vague. I wasn't exactly super aiming to make this review incredibly clear (which may be silly when I literally pointed out that sometimes I felt like Fujimura's writing wasn't always clear eek). ...more
5

Mar 21, 2017

Painting in a red barn in New Jersery, Makoto Fujimura describes laying lachite and azurite, up to 60 layers to create a nihonga painting. Describing Japanese art, he describes the emphasis on hiddenness, ambiguity, and beauty.

“The surface of my “slow art” is prismatic, so at first glance, the machite surface looks green. But if the eye is allowed to linger on the surface-it usually takes ten minuets for the eye to adjust-the observer can begin to see the rainbow created by layer upon layer of Painting in a red barn in New Jersery, Makoto Fujimura describes laying lachite and azurite, up to 60 layers to create a nihonga painting. Describing Japanese art, he describes the emphasis on hiddenness, ambiguity, and beauty.

“The surface of my “slow art” is prismatic, so at first glance, the machite surface looks green. But if the eye is allowed to linger on the surface-it usually takes ten minuets for the eye to adjust-the observer can begin to see the rainbow created by layer upon layer of broken shards of minerals.” (p.20)

The paintings are pathway of expression toward a deeper connection with his Japanese roots and his Christian identity. For 25 years, Fujimura has been interested in the trans-cultural work “Silence” by Shusako Endo. “Silence” is revered as a word about God’s presence in a broken world, a story about Portugal missionaries forced to apostate and renounce their face, and a critical look at the brutal conforming pressures of Japanese culture.

“Mine is a story of my own discovery of faith in an unexpected setting-Japanese culture, a soil inhospitable to Christanity (p.23). Fujimura describes his encounters of being left out of his culture. The Omote/Ura (front/back) cultural is hospitable outwardly, but punishing to insiders who fail to respect social norms. Fujimura uses the analogy of the fumi-e, a representational square icon, to describe the blotting out of Christian influence by the Japanese. Theologian Tertullian (150 A.D.) said “the blood of the martyrs are the seeds of the church”, and so the priests were forced to renounce and break their faith, to stop the spread of their ideas. By stepping on images of Christ, on a fumi-e, they would publicly renounce their faith.

“ I have encountered many Christians who make black-and-white judgments about others, especially in regards to failures of faith. We have a culture of judgemental reflection within the church, the we-verus-the duality, a culture in which any violation of behavioral codes is seen to be the only aspect of a faith journey to be examined.” (p.81)

But “Silence” continues to provoke for its criticism of Western faith too. Western triumphalism and pride cause less adept readers to understand the deeper messages of the book. Fujimura argues that the apostate priests were still honoring to God even if they could not express it. “Endo seems to argue that none of us are exempt from the possibility of complete failure if we face extraordinary torture and dehumanization” (p.145).

“Beauty and Silence” is a thoughtful examination of faith that is blotted out in culture in the most extreme ways. It’s source work “Silence” is very much a brutal novel, about the torture and breaking of missionaries. But it’s a work that endures maybe because it meets an audience that observed the new horrors in the 20th century found in the ovens of Treblinka, the rubble of Nagaski or the jungles of Cambodia. There may be brokenness, persecution and destruction, but many of us still find a Prescence even when there is nothing to be spoken.
...more
3

Jul 17, 2017

Probably I should read it again.

It intrigued me more than it enlightened me.

Ambiguity is close to the theme of the book, and Fujimura's thoughts about ambiguity tend toward the ambiguous. Others may feel more at home here.

He opened the window into Japanese culture wider for me, drawing connections between a past of failed Christianity and forced silence to the ambiguity, ambivalence, and passivity which he notes in the Japanese spirit. Little space is given to critique; he supports Japanese Probably I should read it again.

It intrigued me more than it enlightened me.

Ambiguity is close to the theme of the book, and Fujimura's thoughts about ambiguity tend toward the ambiguous. Others may feel more at home here.

He opened the window into Japanese culture wider for me, drawing connections between a past of failed Christianity and forced silence to the ambiguity, ambivalence, and passivity which he notes in the Japanese spirit. Little space is given to critique; he supports Japanese culture, seeing in the ambiguity itself a unique world of meaning, expressed in a distinct art. The book is not primarily about Japan's history and art, either to critique or support, but that world, and Shusaku Endo's novel "Silence" in particular, is a context for the broader themes. It is hard to say what the theme or thesis of the book is.

The martyrs are honored by the church, but what of the suffering apostates--those who outwardly betrayed Christ but inwardly still believed? Here "hiddenness" is something different from living in catacombs, and "silence" includes stepping on the fumie, a cross symbol made for the purpose.

The method of the book is not to bring together the two sides of the many contradictions it deals in, but to inhabit the 'spaces in between'. Something like this space is what is meant by "silence." It does not intend to be rigorously analytical. Images and themes are folded together, creating a mood of coherence, without actually relating ideas together in synthesis. I found this dissatisfying; I think that I can out-both-and the both-anders, and have my rational cake and transrationally eat it too. (see the cake Becomes part of me, so I still 'have' it...) I think too that there is a place where ambiguity means not beauty and silence but collapse and death. I'm sure Fujimura would agree, but I don't remember this place defined. Definition in general is just not the way Fujimura works here.

The book is built around Shusaku Endo's book "Silence." While Fujimura does critique Endo's theology as relativist and postmodern, the net effect is to unequivocally uphold his book as valuable, in the artistic sense of the term. Between postmodernism and modernism, a space. I kinda like that--I see myself there too--except that the beauty is in the synthesis, not the bare space.

Fujimura critiques the Western Christian worldview as aggressive and individualist, with a patriarchal God. He sees Japanese culture as passive and collectivist, with a matriarchal God, and suggests that this is not enough. This idea is not developed; it's more about experiencing the Japanese world of faith and art for what it is.

A crude summary, very much my own: There is right and wrong--strength and weakness--triumph and failure, and then there is the space between--silence--a kind of beauty. I offer a qualification: This space is beauty only in the context of striving toward the good--or in the context of "Silence," only with the assumption that there really is a faith which no horrors of real life can shake. Martyrdom is not a Western invention. It's not even really a Christian invention, but true to the core of humanity. Individual responsibility is a fundamental reality giving rise to the moral tension between idealism and real life, but this book risks the collapse of meaning by putting individual responsibility itself in a tension with failure, with nothing supporting. But the space between good and evil is not good, but... space. And the book is not as much about the very real uncertainty inherent to the finding of that good as about the failure to live what is found.

Failure is not beautiful; redemption is beautiful. He came to heal, not to help us inhabit our sickness. This is not rejected, but I think it could be more clearly shown.

Fujimura helps me understand a kind of psychological suffering which I have not experienced. I did not find the same beauty in this that he has found. Very likely I will see it differently sometime.

I have not read the book "Silence"; only summaries.

I'm glad I read this book. I expected something other than what I got, but I liked much of what I did find, and the space between expectation and satisfaction is one I can find beauty in. It made me think.

Probably I should read it again. ...more

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