Ambassadors

Pat Rogers

  • The Samurai by Shusaku Endo, translated by Van C. Gessel
    Peter Owen, 272 pp, £8.95, May 1982, ISBN 0 7206 0559 8
  • The Obedient Wife by Julia O’Faolain
    Allen Lane, 230 pp, £7.50, May 1982, ISBN 0 7139 1467 X
  • Pinball by Jerzy Kosinski
    Joseph, 287 pp, £7.95, May 1982, ISBN 0 7181 2133 3
  • Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido
    Gollancz, 218 pp, £6.95, May 1982, ISBN 0 575 03112 3

By the Western calendar, the events chronicled in Shusaku Endo’s latest novel take place between 1613 and 1624. But of course that is an artificial way of looking at the matter. Half the book takes place in Mexico and Europe; Endo has the cosmopolitan range of a partly ‘Westernised’ figure, educated in the Catholic faith. Nevertheless, the heart of the issue concerns Japan, ‘a wall with windows no larger than gunports, windows to keep an eye on those coming in, not to look out upon the wider world’. We are encouraged by the translator’s postscript, and by one or two unguarded phrases in the text, to see the book as a metaphysical disquisition, a scrutiny of the nature of politics in any time or place. But the specifics are more imaginatively vital than any abstract moralising. Endo is, pace many commentators, pervaded by history: the morality emerges from that history.

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