Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Silence” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.08  ·  Rating details ·  26,527 ratings  ·  3,447 reviews
"In my opinion one of the finest novels of our time." - Graham Greene

Shusaku Endo is Japan's foremost novelist, and Silence is generally regarded to be his masterpiece. In a perfect fusion of treatment and theme, this powerful novel tells the story of a seventeenth-century Portuguese priest in Japan at the height of the fearful persecution of the small Christian community.
Paperback, 219 pages
Published January 1st 1999 by Taplinger Publishing Company (first published 1966)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Silence, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Roxana Chirilă I can't know for sure if my hunch is true, but your question strikes me as very American. I come from a country where the best education you can get i…moreI can't know for sure if my hunch is true, but your question strikes me as very American. I come from a country where the best education you can get is in state universities. If I'm not much mistaken, the same is true in Japan. You see, education isn't just a personal asset - if the people in a city will be better educated, they will be able to do more, produce more, and improve the life of those around them.

(Alternately, you could be Russian - but I think in Russia the government is more likely to demand, rather than pay for what it wants.)

Japan is very much aware that education can be a national asset: their borders were closed until 1868, when they were still a feudal empire. When they opened their borders, they realized they were behind in all sorts of ways, culturally, technologically etc. Perhaps others would have been overwhelmed, but not Japan: they sent students abroad, brought them back to teach others, invited foreigners to teach, started the industrial revolution and so on.

While Susaku Endo wasn't part of the first wave of students who got scholarships, the point remains: students are given access to tools in order to improve themselves and therefore improve things back home, rather than to promote any specific political or patriotic purpose.

So, to answer your question: we can't know for sure, but it's highly unlikely that they did. They'd want him to write well and improve Japanese literature, surely, but I doubt they'd micro-manage their writers and artists in that particular way.(less)
Gloomy Shusaku Endo's writing style is pretty dry and the book does start off quite boring but it quickly picks up and it's actually absolutely harrowing. A …moreShusaku Endo's writing style is pretty dry and the book does start off quite boring but it quickly picks up and it's actually absolutely harrowing. A great read.

(I just saw this question is from two years ago... Well, better late than sorry I guess).(less)
Norwegian Wood by Haruki MurakamiKafka on the Shore by Haruki MurakamiThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki MurakamiBattle Royale by Koushun Takami1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Best Japanese Books
710 books — 3,011 voters
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn WaughThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Power and the Glory by Graham GreeneThe Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
Catholic Fiction
512 books — 439 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  26,527 ratings  ·  3,447 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Silence
Jeffrey Keeten
“Sin, he reflected, is not what it is usually thought to be; it is not to steal and tell lies. Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind.”

 photo ChristianMartyrsOfNagasaki_zpssyl4fq5l.jpg
Japanese Painting by an unknown artist of the Christian Martyrs of Nagasaki.

The Jesuit priest Francis Xavier born in SPAIN, but representing PORTUGAL arrived in Japan in 1543 to save souls. The Japanese were Buddhist, not “heathens” without a proper religion. The Spanish Francis
Jim Fonseca
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a historical novel about the early years of Christianity in Japan. It is a fictionalized account based on real historical characters.

It’s set in the late 17th century. Two Portuguese priests get into Japan by ship from Macao at a time when Japanese officials had banned Christianity and were killing priests and torturing suspected Christians to apostatize (give up their faith). They are forced to verbally renounce their faith and to stomp and spit on religious figures.


The main character
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Painful and deep book about the religions
I think this book change me and makes me more respectful to other religions even if you religion different than what I believe I should respect you because this what you believe too
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2016
"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."
-- Wittgenstein, Tractus Logico-Philosophicus 7


The novel starts off a bit slow, but once it hit its pace it's almost Dostoevskian in its depths. Endō, a Japanese Catholic, uses the story of two Jesuit priests in search of an apostate Jesuit to explore issues of faith, circumstance, religous colonialism, belief, sin, courage, suffering, martyrdom, etc., especially during periods when God is "silent". He examines Christ and Christianity and t
Laura Leaney
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an intense - rather grim - epistolary novel written mostly from the vantage point of a Roman Catholic priest, a missionary to Japan, early in the 17th century. The events are based on historical facts and the characters on actual people. The succinct introduction by translator William Johnston reveals that the novel begins after the period when daiymo Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who had once allowed the Christian missionaries much privilege, had twenty-six Japanese and European Christians crucif ...more
Mar 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: translation, 20-ce, japan
A worthwhile read even for a non-Christian like me who, nonetheless, has a deep and abiding intellectual interest in religion and spirituality. But VERY Christian. You have to have some empathy for that side of the story in order for it to be a satisfying read. If you're an atheist, not for you. No no no... ...more
Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: my day depends on the setting sun
Recommended to Mariel by: george michael's faith
This book ruined my life. Sorta true. It's the catchiest review intro I'm going to come up with. I'm afraid to review this book and remember why it set me off to feeling hopeless and stupid. Band aid scenario. Pull it off!

I don't have the religion or spiritual kinds of faith. I'm dyslexic when it comes to religion, maybe. My mind jumbles the meanings and I just don't speak that language of KNOWING what you can't see and this is good and this is always bad. I don't look at someone who does have i
Blake Crouch
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a devastatingly brilliant novel about faith, fanaticism, love, suffering, and ultimately, the silence of God. Why does God allow pain to flourish in the world? Why does God stand silent while the world burns? This novel, about Jesuit Portuguese missionaries in Japan in the 17th Century is gorgeously rendered, asks the hardest of hard questions, and is simply one of the greatest novels I've ever read. Very excited to see the upcoming film adaptation by Martin Scorsese. ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt.

The context of the above line is based on the sacrifice Jesus made for sins of humanity. Now I am going to revise this line to explain the story of Silence.

For priests of Japan, it was easy enough to die as good and beautiful; the hard thing was to die as miserable and corrupt.

Hailed as one of the best novels of the twentieth century, Endo's Silence creates a fascinating as wel
Dec 07, 2019 rated it liked it
This is certainly one of the most difficult books I have ever reviewed, I find myself really unsure in the face of this reading.
The plot is truly shocking, it is about the missionary journey of two Portuguese priests who, at the end of 17° century will embark for Japan with the desire to bring the word of Christ among these brothers. Father Rodrigues and Father Garrpe will find different destinies, the latter will still remain to a living faith dying in martyrdom together with other Catholic Jap
This is a very impressive historical novel set in 17th century Japan. I have not seen the Scorsese film but my edition does contain an introduction by Scorsese so there is a link to it.

The book is primarily about the difficulties in maintaining faith in a hostile environment, and specifically the trials undergone by Portuguese Catholic missionaries, whose work in Japan flourished in the 16th century but was brutally suppressed. This is a little difficult to understand for those of us who never h
Silence is a modern classic by Shusaku Endo. On the cover a crucified Jesus hangs from Japanese writing characters. My friend, Carol, recommended this book to me awhile back and I've had it sitting on my bookshelf. Then during Holy Week while I was finishing Fr. Neuhaus’ Death on a Friday Afternoon, he mentions the heroic struggles of the European missionaries who gave their all to travel around the world to share the Gospel message. Sometimes it just seems appropriate to leave off one book and ...more
This was a very disturbing book for me. One that I probably won't forget for awhile. ...more
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed

The premise of a story of Catholic missionaries trying to spread Christianity in Japan really caught my interest because I have fond memories of reading Shogun, which featured a similar premise as a side-story. Although, if any of you have read Shogun "fond" may not be the best way to describe the reading experience as there lots - and I do mean LOTS - of gory descriptions of cruelty and violence.

Obviously, I must have forgotten about that when I gleefully signed up to the group read of Sile
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2012)
Mind-blowing. It tells about the 17th century Japan when the Tokugawa shogunate was in power. During this time, practicing Catholics were called Kakure Kirishitan ("Hidden Christians") because they had to do their religious rituals underground. This was also the time of "fumie" a metal plate bearing the images of Jesus and Mary. The religious police asked the families suspected to be Catholics to trample this fumie to prove that they had not converted from Buddism.

It was also during this time w
Raul Bimenyimana
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had it not been for the reviews I had seen from my friends whose tastes and opinions I respect, I probably would not have read this book. Reason being that I hesitate to read religious and/or atheist books because of the preaching, a condescending tone that is normally vehicle for the rant that boils down to: we are in the right, they are in the wrong and these couple of hundreds of pages will be dedicated to proving my point. And given the short description that accompanied the story I thought ...more
Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan, 2015
This slim book by a famous Japanese author, currently being adapted into a movie by Scorsese starring the dude from Girls, is about a missionary sent to Japan in the 1600s. Christians were terribly persecuted back then; it was called the time of "Kakure Kirishitan", or Hidden Christians. Christians were forced to trample on the image of Jesus (called a fumie) or they were horribly tortured to death.

And the thread of torture and death hangs over every page, so this is a tough book to read. It bri
Χαρά Ζ.
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I feel confused, i feel conflicted and i am struggling. My inner world is seperated in half and i cannot decide. I haven't had so much thought over an action in a long time and i know that it has to do with God and stuff, but i just, i cannot make peace with myself. What would i do in this situation? What would i do? I just... I don't know what i would do, i was angry and i wanted to cry for the sin and didn't know which one was a greater sin. Rage was pumping in my blood for all the se
Jan 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Jesuit priest Francisco Xavier called Japan “the light of my heart…the country in the Orient most suited for Christianity”.

Fact: Kakure or Japanese crypto-Christians, meeting in secret for 240 years…reciting a Japanese version of the “Hail Mary” and yet nobody knew what it meant for many years.

Estimate: 30,000 Kakure live today in Japan.


1587- Hydeyoshi started the persecution of Christians.
1614-26 priests punished in Nagasaki.
1614-expulsion from Japan of all missionarie
Friar Stebin John Capuchin
We are on our way.
We are on our way.
We are on our way to the temple of Paradise.

A wonderfully written historical fiction by Shusaku Endo and translated by William Johnson. This story was a great thread which sticks us on the text. Still, now I carry the characters of the story.
This story is about two missionaries (Frs. Sebastian Rodrigues and Garrpe) going to Japan for their mission. Their journey and the lives in the land of Japan makes the story vibrant and our hearts will be burning when we
Sam Quixote
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Set in the 17th century, a pair of Portuguese Catholic priests, Rodrigues and Garrpe, set off to the remote and mysterious island kingdom of Japan to spread Christianity and track down their mentor, Father Ferreira, who is rumoured to have committed apostasy (renounced his faith). But the Japanese government are not friendly to foreigners (this xenophobic attitude actually continues to this day!) and are particularly hostile to this new religion - is Ferreira simply dead and does a similar fate ...more
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Endo addresses the question that so many ask - why does God stay silent in the face of human suffering? I was brought up in the church (of Scotland) and had a deep faith as a child but I started to question my faith in my late teens, eg the irrationality of believing in a supernatural being who watches and judges us throughout our lives; the irrationality of praying to or believing in a concept; that other world faiths have gods so there cannot be just one God, and to believe that there is and t ...more
E. G.
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Introduction, by Martin Scorsese
Historical Note


Appendix: Diary of an officer at the Christian residence
Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~
Actual Rating: 2.5 Stars

Hm. Truly, I flickered between being super interested in this & falling asleep while reading it. I enjoy religious themes, especially when presented in conflict, but somehow this small book manages to feel long winded with dry patches throughout.

Read for BookTube-a-Thon 2018!

Challenge: Read a book & then watch the film adaption!
Jun 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, possibly the best Catholic novel I've ever read. Everyone should read this though. It's not just a Catholic novel.

Going through a reread.
Joy D
Set in 17th century Japan, this work of historical fiction tells the story of Sebastian Rodrigues, a devout Portuguese priest whose beliefs are tested to the breaking point. At this point in history, Christianity is being eradicated from Japan by leaders who see it as a threat. An earlier missionary-priest is rumored to have apostatized and Rodrigues hopes to find him. It is based on a real episode in history, but the specifics have been lost to time. Endō fills in a possible scenario and tells ...more
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

This is an extremely powerful and deep exploration of faith. It takes place in 17th century Japan where Portuguese priests (missionaries) travel to minister to the Christian peasants. This was a time when Christians were hunted down and tortured and forced to renounce their beliefs. When one of the priests is given the choice to renounce to save Christians from being tortured he has to face his own beliefs and fears. This wasn't a fun book to read but I'm really glad I read it. I learne
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Rating: 5🍌

Despite my interest in Japanese literature I had not tackled any of Shusaku Endo's works, and when I picked up SILENCE I was skeptical: the jacket copy described a story of a Portuguese priest struggling with his faith in 17th-century Japan as "gripping." I could not imagine how this could be true. Novels centered on religious faith are not my favorite genre; even the religion-heavy entries of Graham Greene's oeuvre -- which I consumed feverishly over the course of a few months about 1
Nov 08, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Sebastian Rodruiges, a Portuguese priest, enters Japan secretly to administer to persecuted Christians. His mission is an abject failure and he is captured. Can he retain his faith in the most difficult circumstances, facing the torture of himself and other innocents?

There is also the shadowy figure of Father Ferreira, a former mentor who has been in Japan for twenty years, and who has renounced Christianity. The two men are brought together and Ferreira explains how and why he has lost his fait
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: Silence by Shūsaku Endō - 4 stars 3 14 Dec 10, 2020 09:58AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Silence by Endo cover and date 3 15 Oct 23, 2020 06:54PM  
Reading 1001: Silence by Shūsaku Endō 6 26 Sep 27, 2020 04:05AM  
Essays: Silence by Endo Shusaku (General Comments) 7 14 Mar 26, 2020 06:04PM  
Fanatieke Nederla...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Maandboek september: Stilte 14 67 Sep 12, 2018 01:48PM  
Guardian Newspape...: Silence - July 2018 22 19 Aug 30, 2018 02:30PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering
  • On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent
  • Masks
  • Shiokari Pass
  • Mintijteer
  • The Power and the Glory
  • Kokoro
  • Snow Country
  • Literature Through the Eyes of Faith: Christian College Coalition Series
  • Dynamics of Faith
  • Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes
  • Confessions
  • The Secret of Goresthorpe Grange
  • The Mystery of Sasassa Valley
  • Black Rain
  • Botchan
  • The Woman in the Dunes
  • On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Shusaku Endo (遠藤周作), born in Tokyo in 1923, was raised by his mother and an aunt in Kobe where he converted to Roman Catholicism at the age of eleven. At Tokyo's Keio University he majored in French literature, graduating BA in 1949, before furthering his studies in French Catholic literature at the University of Lyon in France between 1950 and 1953. A major theme running through his books, which ...more

Articles featuring this book

If you've got an overflowing Want to Read shelf of books that you keep meaning to get to (one day!), you're in good company. Our company, that...
128 likes · 47 comments
“Sin, he reflected, is not what it is usually thought to be; it is not to steal and tell lies. Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind.” 272 likes
“Christ did not die for the good and beautiful. It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt.” 185 likes
More quotes…