‘The Hermeneutics of the Encounter with the West: the Case of Endō Shūsaku’

Kasza, Justyna Weronika (2010) ‘The Hermeneutics of the Encounter with the West: the Case of Endō Shūsaku’. Silva Iaponicarum (Quarterly on Japanology) Special Edition Japan: New Challenges in the 21st Century, . pp. 241-256.

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Official URL: http://www.silvajp.amu.edu.pl/Silva%2023242526.pdf


The paper focuses on an approach to the selected works by the Japanese writer Endō Shūsaku from the perspective of Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutics. My primary intention is to employ the premises of Ricoeurian hermeneutics (symbol, cogito, distance/distanciation, appropriation etc) in order to conduct the analysis of Endō’s texts, his essays and critical works in particular. My main interest is in Endō’s encounter with the West, mainly with the milieu of French Christian writers (F. Mauriac, J. Green, and G. Bernanos), as well as in the significant outcome of this encounter - his distinctively expressed inquisitiveness on the issue of evil.
Endō’s essays and critical works (in Japanese: hyōron), written from the late 1940s until the writer’s death in 1996, constitute primary sources in my investigation of the comprehensive process of approaching, reading, interpreting Western literature and thought. The analysis of essays and critical works reveals that he constantly returned and reread the works of French literature at the different stages of his literary career.
However, this side of the writer’s activity seems to be have been neglected in the hitherto existing studies on the writer. No account was taken of the wide and equally important essaystic body of works created by Endō in parallel to the fiction even though they amply illustrate the process of the writer’s growing up, attaining maturity of his self-consciousness and his literary sensitivity. Not only do they exemplify Endō’s involvement in the most recent discussions of that time, but they could also be viewed as the foundation of his own workshop as a novelist searching for the leading topics, most innovative and convincing forms of narrative speech; looking for inspirations in the foreign literature.
Ricoeurian hermeneutics assumes that homo narrator does not express himself directly but, in acquiring meanings as cultural codes, travels in a roundabout way. This is the case of Endō Shūsaku – the writer who forces his way through the texts of the Western culture, discusses with them, and interprets them in his own way. In this respect, Ricoeur’s hermeneutics enables us to reconstruct in detail the extensive process of reading, interpreting, and appropriating that takes place within Endō’s essays and critical works, in other words, to reconstruct the route he takes from being the ‘reader’ to becoming the ‘writer’ himself.
Moreover, a terminological and problematical affinity may be pointed out between Endō and Ricoeur in the domain of such notions as distance (distanciation), dialogicity, the dialectics, and the problem of cogito (‘wounded cogito’) etc. Thus, the applicability of the hermeneutical method of Paul Ricoeur in my discussion is based on the view that Endō’s writing can be perceived as a kind of hermeneutics.
I believe that this perspective enables me to create the methodological construct for the study of the case of Endō to reveal the significant and distinctive features that are visible in Endō’s entire literature. In addition, I intend to consider the validity of this methodological approach when applied to the analysis of other cases of the Japanese encounters with the West.

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