There’s loads of literature that illuminates the foreigner’s struggle in Japan. But these tales about “strangers in a strange land” are mostly written from the stranger’s point of view. It’s more unusual to read the Japanese perspective, which is one reason why Shusaku Endo’s “Wonderful Fool” — first serialized in the Asahi Shimbun in 1959 — is notable.

In the novel, a young Frenchman named Gaston Bonaparte visits Tokyo to meet his former pen-pal, Takamori. Much to the disappointment of Takamori and his sister, Gaston is not at all the glamorous foreigner they expected. This wry, touching tale of humanity explores the themes of the self and “the other;” haves and have-nots; revenge and mercy. Endo playfully uses his own name in the novel when Gaston is kidnapped by a gangster out for revenge who is also named Endo.

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