24 April 2019

Notes on 'Silence'

Endō, Shūsaku. Silence. Translated by William Johnston, Picador Modern Classics, 2016.

1. There are several reasons I picked this book (I have to share because normally I go by gut feel plus the cover — this copy has a terrible movie tie-in cover): one, it's highly recommended by a Japanese trainee; two, it's been adapted for the big screen by Martin Scorsese; three, I'm extremely curious about Shūsaku Endō; and four, Christian faith baffles me.

2. The most compelling reason: the story is set in seventeenth-century Japan, where Christians and priests were hunted and executed by burning, drowning and other inhumane ordeals. A part of me may have expected torture porn.

3. Kidding. But seriously, I want to get in the mind of the faithful. What drives missionaries to spread the word — and here I realize the actual legwork the job entails. They travel places to preach, like pop stars on tour.

4. Jesuit priest Sebastian Rodrigues is the novel's hero. I hate him. Such an arrogant fellow. He encapsulates everything I find deplorable about the religion. On top of the list is the viewpoint that suffering is glamorous:
And this sense of suffering shared softly eased his mind and heart more than the sweetest water. (106)

The more conscious he became of being watched by the Christians from behind the more he went on making himself a hero. (118)

A man had died. Yet the outside world went on as if nothing happened... On the day of my death, too, will the world go relentlessly on its way, indifferent just as now? After I am murdered, will the cicadas sing and the flies whirl their wings inducing sleep? Do I want to be as heroic as that? And yet, am I looking for the true, hidden martyrdom or just for a glorious death? Is it that I want to be honored, to be prayed to, to be called a saint? (128)

...he had tried to avoid any thought of people who were stronger than himself, people who had heroically endured torture [emphasis mine] and the pit. (163)
5. An exhibit of the aforementioned arrogance:
Yet one priest remaining in this country has the same significance as a single candle burning in the catacombs. So Garrpe and I vowed to one another that after our separation we should strive might and main to stay alive.

Anyhow, if my report now comes to an abrupt end (for all I know you may not even to date have received it), do not think we are necessarily dead. It is just that in this barren land we must leave one small spade to till the ground.... (64)
6. The entire chapter 7 had me on a fit. My marginalia read: The chapter where I so want the priest to suffer. Such arrogant man... God complex — God does nothing. He simply bathes in his vanity. I lost it in the latter part; I'm not sure now what I meant by the last couple of sentences about God, but I do know I was livid.

7. If all that sounded like I didn't enjoy the book, I had you fooled. Endō's writing is simple and straightforward. I may not have gained the philosophical insights I was hoping for, but I did feel the silence Rodrigues felt from his God.

12 April 2019

Today in beautiful things

1. "La Pleureuse" by Francois-Xavier and Claude Lalanne

A trainee mentioned her family's upcoming trip to Hakone for Japan's Golden Week. I haven't heard of the place and my search led me to this image. It's rare that I'm moved by a painting, sculpture or piece of architecture — only a human face can do it for me, it seems — but this one, this one is special.

Pool of Tears

2. "No Geography" by The Chemical Brothers

I do note album releases on my calendar. The day has arrived for this masterpiece and I am beyond satisfied.

01 April 2019

Father's Day after-show thoughts

There's little I can tolerate when it comes to housemates. Reason that I completely share Henry Willows' pleasure in having the house to himself on a quiet winter night.

A backgrounder on why he's alone: he's a divorcé, whose children are now in the care of his ex-wife, Sue and her new partner. In a parallel universe, he may be spending the evening with his family instead of a tumbler of whisky.

Henry's son, Matthew has not yet given up on that happily-ever-after dream; and thus makes an unannounced visit, his possibly pregnant girlfriend, Christine in tow.

So begins the story.

Miguel Faustmann and Andres Borromeo play father and son in Repertory Philippines' staging of Father's Day by Eric Chappell.

Repertory Philippines presents Father's Day by Eric Chappell. The show, based on the playwright's hit sitcom, Home to Roost, is directed by Baby Barredo and runs until 14th April at Onstage, Greenbelt – Makati.

If there's anything that bugs me about the play, it's the thought that I might be crankier than Henry (Miguel Faustmann) — a high bar — and more old-fashioned than I dare admit.

Matthew (Andres Borromeo) is driven by good intentions. Pulling off a parent trap is sweet, agreed. But steal money and fiddle with private property? Not cute. And his ploy seems to be working as Henry and Sue (Liesl Batucan) get cozy, to understate. Love is in the nippy air, and so is infidelity.

Maybe I've forgotten to bring my sense of humor or maybe I'm just a grinch. What's certain is Chappell can write cutting put-downs. The repartees are laugh-out-loud funny when done well, though in some moments lacking the bite we've come to expect from a British comedy.

Becca Coates and Liesl Batucan complete the cast of four.

All four actors are dealt with flawed characters, with quirks that can annoy the hell out of you (Sue's shrill retorts, Matthew's wing-it attitude, Christine's constipated look). Among them, Faustmann has been the most successful at earning sympathy, making his sour Henry likeable.

Confession: I connect deeply with Christine (Becca Coates). Not because of her gender and punk proclivities, but because she doesn't speak much and runs away from her problems. We are difficult to live with. No exceptions. Deciding to carry on living with someone somehow means learning to quarrel productively.

At curtain call I overhear an audience member tell his companion, "Simple lang" and I could hear a smile, an evidence of fondness for the light-hearted performance. This is why we bother with theater. To escape reality, yes, but also to manage our sorrows. However briefly, holding a family together is simple.

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