Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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In this world of pain and suffering, God often seems silent. But light is yet present in darkness, and silence speaks with hidden beauty and truth.
Shusaku Endo's novel Silence, first published in 1966, endures as one of the greatest works of 20th-century Japanese literature. Its narrative of the persecution of Christians in 17th-century Japan raises uncomfortable questions about God and the ambiguity of faith in the midst of suffering and hostility.
Endo's Silence took 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 amid trauma and glimpses of how the Gospel is conveyed in Christ-hidden cultures.
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|Listening Length||9 hours and 44 minutes|
|Author||Makoto Fujimura, Philip Yancey - foreword|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||January 31, 2017|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #78,565 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#15 in Religious Intolerance (Audible Books & Originals)
#40 in Religious Literature Criticism
#52 in Japanese History (Audible Books & Originals)
Top reviews from the United States
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I hardly ever post a product review, but this book inspires my heartfelt recommendation.
Silence and Beauty relates Japanese-American artist Makoto Fujimura’s experience of becoming a Christian while in Japan studying nihonga, a traditional style of Japanese painting. Although these subjects may seem unrelated, Fujimura’s study of traditional Japanese art exposed him to the history of Christianity in Japan through his discovery of the fumi-e. Fumi-e (“stepping images”) are relief depictions of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary that the Tokugawa shogunate ordered suspect Japanese to trample on; those who refused to trample were identified as Christians and tortured. This discovery led Fujimura to Endō’s novel, in which the fumi-e are a prominent element of the plot. Years later, a conversation with Martin Scorsese about his film adaptation of Silence inspired Fujimura to write a book using Endō’s novel as a framework for reflections on his own experience with Christianity and Japanese culture.
As a bilingual Japanese-American who has lived in Japan and the United States and shares Endō’s Christian faith, Fujimura is uniquely qualified to discuss both the cultural and religious aspects of Silence in a way that Western readers can understand. His commentary offers rare insight on how Japanese culture influenced the shape of Christianity in Japan and how Christianity, in turn, continues to shape Japanese culture to this day. I had never thought of Christianity having any significant influence on Japanese culture, as less than one percent of Japanese are Christians. Fujimura admits his is a “radical notion,” but it is certainly intriguing: “Endō …wrote in a country haunted by Christ, and this historical mark, like the footprints in the wooden frames of a fumi-e, remains indelible—but it is concealed, hidden within the Japanese psyche; this explains the psychological and sociological reality that affects Japan today. Further, I present here the most radical notion: Japan is still a Christ-hidden culture, haunted by the past, with a developed sense of hiding well what is most important. Endō, an archaeologist of cultural trauma, begins to dip into the mud, scooping up the elements of broken shards of the culture of Christianity in Japan, and discovers, in my mind, the essential beauty and humanity of Japan.”
Silence and Beauty is highly illuminating to the themes in Endō’s novel and to the more subtle aspects of Japanese culture I was not aware of. Fujimura also sheds light on the life of Shusaku Endō, drawing from memoirs and interviews to interpret the author’s motivation and inspiration for writing Silence, which I found especially fascinating. If you want to understand more about Silence, its author Shusaku Endō, the mysterious relationship between Japanese culture and Christianity in Japan, or at least one of the above, you can’t have a better guide than Makoto Fujimura.
Makoto Fujimura is a very well known artist, famous in many Evangelical circles for being a famous artist that is well known outside of Christian circles. Fujimura grew up in the US, but after college was accepted into a Japanese graduate program to study art. The first student to ever be accepted into this graduate program that did not grow up through the Japanese national art system. Fujimura became a Christian while studying art in Japan, a country with a very low rate of Christians.
Silence and Beauty is an interesting book. It opens with a bit is spiritual memoir. Fujimura details how Shusaku Endo and his book Silence impacted his early faith. And unsurprisingly there is a long exploration of both Endo and Silence. That is done in the context of a rich sociological and historical study of Japan. And all of that is wrapped up in a defense of beauty and art as essential to Christianity. (I was reminded at times of of Francis Spufford's Unapologetic and Brian Zhand's Beauty Will Save the World.)
At this point, this is the best books I have read this year. I have not previously read anything by Fujimura. But I will read more. I have ordered Silence so I can re-read it. (Silence is not available on kindle, and I previously listened to the audiobook, so I have ordered the paperback.) Once I am done I am going to re-read Silence and Beauty again. I am not going to detail the book much more this time, but will write another review later.
As a note, this is a nicely designed hardcover book. There is a velum looking dustcover and several pages of color art in the middle of the book. I was encouraged to pick up the Hardcover, and I am glad I did to see the full color art. But I purchased the Kindle edition Sunday when it was released so I can highlight the many passages that I wanted to highlight. The Kindle edition has the same art, but the art is in line with the book where the images are talked about instead of being gathered together in the middle of the book. If you view the images on a tablet they are full color. But obviously, if they are viewed on an eink Kindle, they will be in black and white.
Top reviews from other countries
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.