cover image Foreign Studies

Foreign Studies

Shusaku Endo. Simon & Schuster, $18.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-70333-2

Elegantly divided into three sections, this 1965 novel by the celebrated Japanese author of Scandal calibrates the dislocation of Easterners transplanted to the West. ``A Summer in Rouen,'' set shortly after WW II, follows the recipient of a church-sponsored scholarship that has brought him from Japan to France to study Christian literature; his interest in the West is returned by his well-intentioned hosts' paralyzing inability to view him as more than a blank canvas for their own designs. ``Araki Thomas'' tells of the first Japanese student in Rome, a Christian sent there at the dawn of the 17th century who, realizing that the importation of the foreign religion brings with it certain death, renounces his faith after he returns home, choosing survival for himself and for his people. The themes of these two sections are deepened in ``And You, Too,'' in which an ambitious academic named Tanaka goes to Paris in the 1960s to become an authority on the Marquis de Sade. Despite the presence of a community of Japanese scholars and artists, Tanaka feels as alienated as the hero of ``Rouen,'' ``constantly experiencing the sense of distance between himself and a great foreign spirit, and keenly aware of his own inferiority.'' The effort destroys his health; as in ``Araki Thomas,'' the price for integrating the force of a foreign culture is life. Paradoxically, Endo transcends all cultural barriers; far from foreign, his work has the intimacy and the vastness of the universally true. (May)