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This 1957 novel has at its heart Shusaku Endo’s fascination with a seemingly tranquil and civilized postwar Japan still traumatized by the horrors of the Pacific War. Even a harmless-looking gas station attendant might be a grizzled war veteran involved in brutal killings on the front line little more than a decade before.

On the home front, the combination of indiscriminate wartime bombing, government propaganda and increasing insensibility to death had caused a loss of moral compass that led to one of the most notorious crimes of the war: the vivisections conducted on captured American airmen at a Fukuoka hospital in the name of medical research.

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