I am reposting this review from earlier this year because the Kindle Edition has dropped to $6.99. I am planning on re-reading this in December in prepreation for the movie, which will be released in limited release in December and wide release in January. If you have not read about the movie this is a good article from New York Magazine.
Summary: Silence and Beauty is a profound reflection on the book Silence by Shusaku Endo, the role of art and beauty in Christianity, and a reflection of the impact of Christianity on the culture of Japan.
Silence by Shusaku Endo is one of those books that is not easily forgotten. I read it a couple years ago and I rarely go more than a couple weeks without referencing it.
Makoto Fujimura is a very well known artist, famous in many Evangelical circles for being a famous artist that is well known outside of Christian circles. Fujimura grew up in the US, but after college was accepted into a Japanese graduate program to study art. The first student to ever be accepted into this graduate program that did not grow up through the Japanese national art system. Fujimura became a Christian while studying art in Japan, a country with a very few Christians.
Silence and Beauty is fascinating. It opens with a bit is spiritual memoir. Fujimura details how Shusaku Endo and his book Silence impacted his early faith. And unsurprisingly there is a long exploration of both Endo and his book Silence (as well as some of Endo’s other books.) That is done in the context of a rich sociological and historical study of Japan. And all of that is wrapped up in a defense of beauty and art as essential to Christianity. (I was reminded at times of of Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic and Brian Zhand’s Beauty Will Save the World.)
At this point, this is the best book I have read this year. I have not previously read anything by Fujimura. But I will read more. I have ordered Silence so I can re-read it. (Silence is not available on Kindle, and I previously listened to the audiobook, so I have ordered the paperback.) Once I am done I am going to re-read Silence and Beauty again. I am not going to detail the book much more this time, but write another review later. Also of note is that Silence has been made into movie by Martin Scorsese and will be released in
November (December in limited release for Oscar consideration and then wide release in January.)
As a note, Silence and Beauty is a nicely designed hardcover book. There is a velum looking dust cover and several pages of color art in the middle of the book. I was encouraged to pick up the Hardcover, and I am glad I did to see the full color art. But I purchased the Kindle edition Sunday when it was released so I can highlight the many passages that I wanted to highlight. The Kindle edition has the same art, but the art is in line with the book where the images are talked about instead of being gathered together in the middle of the book. If you view the images on a tablet they are full color. But obviously, if they are viewed on an eink Kindle, they will be in black and white.