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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Scandal - Shusaku Endo

Scandal - Shusako Endo
遠藤周作 - スキャンダル
Scandal - Shusako Endo
Scandal by Shusaku Endo

ISBN: 0-8048-1558-5
237 pp

What would you do if someone posing as you were going round the red-light districts of Tokyo committing acts that besmirched your character? This is the conundrum faced by Suguro, the respected Catholic novelist who is Scandal's protagonist. The Kafkaesque premise of the licentious doppelganger is enough to engross the reader in a tale where the twisting alleys of Shinjuku, stalked by pimps and harlots, become a place to explore the darker aspects of what makes us human.

Endo, as usual, explores morality and mortality through a uniquely Japanese Christian perspective that is more interested in considering personal responsibility and enlightenment than achieving some kind of heavenly salvation. Nor is Endo's purpose to judge and condemn, but rather to try to understand the human psyche.

Indeed, the pursuing reporter who is the embodiment of moral indignation is shown to represent a red herring: it is not outside retribution that we should be afraid of, suggests Endo, but rather the power of our own minds to corrupt our lives. Scandal's main players are complex characters in which dark and light elements coexist - they are, Endo is telling us, moral doppelgangers of all of us.

Van C. Gessel's translation deftly retains the page-turning impetus of Endo's original, and propels the reader towards an ambiguous conclusion that reminds us how precarious our constructed realities are.

Richard Donovan

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