Daily Bookshot: The Shusaku Shelf Grows



The Shusaku Shelf Grows, originally uploaded by Robert Burdock.

My postman is beginning to fear me just as much as he fears a rabid Rottweiler, because he knows the moment he puts a foot on my garden path, he’ll have me charging towards him in a desperate bid to relieve him of any bookish cargo he hopefully has.

Today he was extra worried because he had already spotted me from a few doors away, gazing over the hedge at him with lickity-lip anticipation written all over my face. But I had good reason, because last week I’d ordered a couple of Shusaku Endo titles, and I knew he would have at least one of them on his quivering person. He did, and after I had relieved him of it (and helped him to his feet again :)), I discovered it was Endo’s Foreign Studies, the book you see before you. Here’s the blurb from the newer Peter Owen edition:

In the early 1950s Shusaku Endo spent several years as an exchange student studying in Paris. Around him existentialism, Sartre and Beckett were making the city the literary and philosophical capital of the world. But for Endo the experience was deeply alienating and he came away infected with tuberculosis, his studies incomplete and convinced that there could be no cultural commerce between East and West. Foreign Studies consists of three linked narratives exploring this theme.

The first part, ‘A Summer in Rouen’, concerns Kudo, a Japanese student invited to France in the 1950s. It is a lucent snapshot of a young man who feels adrift in a Western country. The second part, ‘Araki Thomas’, sees Endo on familiar territory as he tells of an apostate Japanese Catholic who has visited seventeenth-century Rome. ‘And You, Too’, the third part, is the story of Tanaka, a Japanese scholar of French literature who visits France in the 1960s to research the life and work of the Marquis de Sade. We soon come to see that Tanaka’s quest is not simply a literary one but spiritual and cultural too.

Ok so I know the book you see in this Daily Bookshot is an older publication (1990), and not a shiny new Peter Owen edition, but that’s irrelevant right now because I’ve brought another Shusaku Endo into my home, and I couldn’t be happier.

The postman couldn’t be happier either, because I let it slip that there’s another Endo title en route. What’s the betting he pulls a ‘sickie’ tomorrow? :o)

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).