Stained Glass Elegies: Stories by Shusaku Endo translated by Van C. Gessel (Tuttle Publishing, Tokyo, 1986)
When Basel records the highest temperature in Switzerland, and much of Europe has the temperatures of Florida in July without benefit of Florida's air conditioning, and a recent birth precludes visiting the local swimming pool, let alone fleeing to somewhere high in the Alps, then sitting in front of a fan and reading beats most other activities. It especially beats sitting with a hot computer on one's lap, so this will be a short review.
Endo is not an author I would have likely come across on my own, but that's the advantage of having someone else's bookshelves at one's disposal. I chose this book of short stories over the many Endo novels available, on the theory that they would work better in a household punctuated by random baby needs.
Although the themes are decidedly adult, and rather depressing, the stories were good to read and rarely objectionable, even to me. What I found most fascinating was the glimpse of life from a Japanese point of view. Recurring motifs, probably somewhat autobiographical, include tuberculosis; hospitals; internal doubts, fears and struggles; war; and the suffering of Christians, both martyrs and apostates, during the time when Japan attempted to stamp out Christianity—and the effect that era has on Japanese Christians today. "Would I be able to endure torture and death—and the torture and death of my family—without abandoning my faith?" is not a thought most American Christians give serious consideration, but apparently for Endo, a Japanese Catholic in a land where Christians of all sorts make up only 2% of the population, it was a haunting question.