A multi-layered novel about a changing postwar Japan


Song of Sadness is a kind of sequel to Endō’s acclaimed early work, The Sea and Poison. Set in the 1970s, the novel revisits Dr. Suguro, now in late middle age, running a modest clinic in Tokyo’s vibrant, seedy Shinjuku district and trying to put behind him a haunting experience from World War II. Weaving together multiple story lines, Endō lays before the reader a cross-section of Tokyo in the 1970s: a vain university professor who leads a humiliating double life; a crusading young reporter determined to pursue aging war criminals; two feckless college students as empty of ideals as they are of purpose; an old man dying of cancer; a quixotic foreigner named Gaston; and Suguro. With a vision as humane as it is unflinching, Endō examines the often impossible complexities of real forgiveness in a world of inscrutable cruelty and suffering.

Endō Shūsaku (1923–96), one of the giants of modern Japanese literature, won the Akutagawa Prize in 1955 for his novella “White Men,” the Mainichi and Shincho Prizes in 1958 for his novel The Sea and Poison, and the Tanizaki Prize in 1966 fo

“The novel Song of Sadness offers opportunities not only for readers who want to read Endô’s Kanashimi no uta in English but also for those who want to examine Endô’s life-long themes of human suffering and the embodied presence of a Christ-like character within Japanese society. It is a valuable new addition.”—Yoshiko Howard, Japanese Studies