Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kiku's Prayer by Endo Shusaku

One danger of reading a translated text is to misinterpret something. You see, I thought that the title, Kiku's Prayer could mean something like Japan's Prayer (Kiku = Chrysanthemum = One of the national flowers of Japan). But then, I found out that the title of the book is actually 女の一生 in Japanese, which means something like The Life of a Woman. (Although according to my teacher, Kiku's cousin Mitsu is an anagram of tsumi or "sin" in Japanese)

But enough about my failed attempt to analyse the title. I've mentioned before how much I love Endo Shusaku, and now that they've translated another book of his, you've got to read it!

Kiku's Prayer follows Kiku, a girl living on the cusp of a modernising Japan. She falls in love with Seikichi, whom she discovers is a kuros (a kakure kirishita - hidden Christian), a practitioner of the banned faith. Despite the international pressure, Seikichi and the other kuros are arrested and brought away to be tortured (in order that they apostasize).

Because of her love of Seikichi, Kiku does, well, in the end, she sacrifices her life. She uses her body to earn money that will help Seikichi (although the money is used for the officer's own pleasure instead) and ultimately dies of consumption.

In fact, this book has a very bleak conclusion. While Christianity is eventually allowed and the Kuros released, the non-Christians are the one who appear to come up on top. But you know, it really reminds me of the Christian Literary Theory, in that Endo presents a very accurate picture of the fallen world.

And in fact, the ending is not without hope. We see that Kiku has lived a life of Love, and with the brighter looking future of the Kuros, well ^^. I suppose you could say that this book is a lot like Endo's classic Silence, because both books end on what seems like a bleak future but carry a faint ring of hope. In addition, both books emphasise the idea of love, a key theme in Endo Shusaku's writings.

This is definitely a book you have to read. For anyone even remotely interested in Japanese Literature or Christian literature, this is a gem that you can't miss. It's actually an inspiring force for me to improve my Japanese so that I can read the books in the original language.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.


  1. I'm reading this at the moment, through the same source as your own copy. I'm also a fan of his writing, my path was via the Sea & poison followed by Stained glass elegies.

    1. He's a wonderful writer isn't he? I hope you enjoy this book too!



I really do appreciate all comments, and I'll try my best to reply within 24 hours!