Endo Shusaku has helped Japanese Christians to assimilate their painful past and has weaned them away from narrow concerns with dogma or sexual guilt to project instead a broad and humane vision of the faith, sensitively attuned to the Japanese context.

In “Kiku’s Prayer,” dating from 1981, he interweaves a boy-girl romance with the true story of a group of French missionaries, at the dawn of the Meiji Era, seeking to make contact with the heroic Hidden Christians who had survived the centuries in which their religion was forbidden. Deftly plotted and well researched, the novel is tinged with affection for Nagasaki, which Endo calls “my heart’s homeland.” Since Endo is a storyteller rather than a stylist, all that the reader will lose in this translation is the use of Nagasaki slang and the snatches of ballads of the time.

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