Bookish and Not-So-Bookish Thoughts

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Liam Neeson as Father Ferreira in “Silence”

  1. It’s been a while since I did one of these.
  2. We went to see the new Scorsese movie, “Silence”, based on the novel by Japanese author Shusaku Endo, at the BFI last week. It’s about seventeenth-century Jesuit missionaries in Japan, where Christianity was persecuted after the Shimabara Rebellion in 1637-8. It is…rough. I hesitate to use the word “graphic”, because no one gets disembowelled or anything, but there are some pretty distressing scenes. I thought it was a very powerful movie asking very interesting questions about the point at which virtuous loyalty to a faith becomes destructive pride (in this case, the point at which the life at stake isn’t yours, but someone else’s). The Chaos thought it was a very powerful movie with a very superfluous premise, since to him, all religious belief is absurd anyway. I’d really like to read the book now.
  3. Though there are a couple of Endo’s books in the flat, Silence isn’t one of them.
  4. “Reading resolutions” are not really my cup of tea—I like reading somewhat at whim; “challenges” and “lists” strike me as being generally an instance of eyes larger than stomach. However: in the sitting room and the landing bookshelves, we have hundreds of books that the Chaos took from his grandparents’ house after they died. There are many nineteenth and twentieth-century classics (Bellow, Kafka, Lawrence Durrell, Graham Greene); there is a fair amount of Japanese literature and non-fiction; there is quite a lot of science and poetry. I’d like to start reading them. In between new books solicited from publishers and essential contemporary reading (The Underground Railroad, Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, etc.), I’ll prioritise those.
  5. This is all I have for you at the moment, I’m afraid: reading, writing my own book (which comes along), turning up to work, and getting quite a lot of cuddles are pretty much all I can manage. January is not my favourite month.
  6. (Although a couple of years ago I wrote a post about how to survive January; it’s on my old blog. It included the advice “eat a lot of oranges”.)
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9 thoughts on “Bookish and Not-So-Bookish Thoughts

  1. I’ll probably see Silence at some point, but I’ll have to brace myself for it. The glimpses of some of the more distressing scenes in the trailer rattled me, so I’m not sure how well I’ll handle seeing it all play out. I’ve read the book twice and consider it one of my favorites, a life-changing read in some respects. And I’m pleased that the book will be getting some attention because of the movie.

    I sometimes make reading resolutions, but this was not the year for it. I need to give myself freedom to choose entirely according to mood. I set a Goodreads goal, but that’s mostly to help myself remember to read instead of falling down angry internet rabbit holes. I don’t care much if I don’t achieve the goal.

    • There’s not very much blood in the film, which is what ordinarily gets me, but yes, “distressing” is the word. I have always had a particular problem with hearing suffering—scenes set in prisons, etc., with background screaming, are particularly unbearable—and there is some of that. It’s a beautifully shot and very powerful film, though, so if you love the book, I’d say it’s definitely worth watching.

      I totally agree with choosing according to mood! Last week (post-Silence and a couple of other “dark” books) I picked up I Capture the Castle because I *needed it* to be safe and soothing and calm me down. (That it did that, and also made me think, is testimony to what an excellent book it is.)

  2. Went to see Silence at weekend myself. Saw that several of the audience left well before the end and on leaving cinema overheard a few negative comments but personally I thought it was fantastic! Haven’t read the book either but will do now.

    • Wow, they left?! I mean, yeah, it’s harrowing, but I honestly think the stuff that’s actually on the screen isn’t the worst. It’s the anticipation of what *might* happen (I kept worrying in the first scene that they were going to plunge the priests straight into the hot springs), and the way that the film keeps the emotional investment high. I spent most of the two and a half hours with my back and shoulders tensed against the seat. But I wouldn’t have said that was worth leaving a cinema over! Then again, everyone has different limits, so maybe that’s enough for some people.

  3. Hmm, I think I might rather read The silence then see it, that way when it gets to be too much I can close the book and do something else. It sounds great though. All those books from the grandparents, would love to paw through them! Sorry you’ve been having a hard January. I hope things look up soon.

    • The film is fascinating—do see it if you can. We have a small short story collection of Endo’s, but I’m not sure there’s anything else of his on the shelves. Perhaps that’s a good introduction, though.

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