Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
The Sea and Poison: A Novel (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – April 17, 1992
100 (Fiction) Books to Read in a Lifetime
AbeBooks.com, an Amazon Company, recommends a unique list of must-read books. Learn More on AbeBooks.com.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Publishers Weekly
Against the backdrop of World War II, Japanese writer Endo ( Scandal ) explores the nature of morality. In this novel, originally published in Japan in 1958, the author examines the inner lives of three characters in the central drama, a grisly vivisection of an American prisoner of war, in an attempt to understand what conscience, or lack of conscience, allowed them to participate in such an atrocity. Through the character of Suguro, an unsophisticated medical intern from the country bullied into acquiescence in the crime by his colleague, Toda, the cynical son of a wealthy doctor, we see how pangs of conscience are not enough to save one from the consequences of participation--even as only an observer--in an unethical act. Endo's finely wrought descriptions of place and the monotonous routine of daily life in a hospital subtly but powerfully evoke the despair and terror of a people at war. He presents here a decidedly postmodern world, where individuals exist in a state of disconnected anomie. Despite its bleakness, the novel is compulsively readable. We are fascinated even as we are repelled by these characters' moral corruption and their slow, inevitable decline.
Copyright 1992 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
“... the novel is compulsively readable. We are fascinated even as we are repelled by these characters' moral corruption and their slow, inevitable decline.” (Publishers Weekly)
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
The novel begins in post-War Japan where the narrator, a newcomer to a community outside Tokyo, in need of medical care finds a doctor named Suguro who is remarkably skillful but strangely reclusive and reticent. On investigating Suguro's background he learns that the doctor was imprisoned for war crimes committed at the hospital where he interned in Fukuoka.
The narrative then shifts from first to third person and back several times to tell the story, not just of Dr Suguro, but of other participants in the Fukuoka experiments as well. Each of them has come to the point, through various happenings in their personal lives, where each believes he or she is capable of complete indifference to human suffering.
The Sea and Poison is compact, engrossing, and rich with symbolism. The sea, for example, is an ever-present element in the minds of the characters, even when not physically apparent, with the surging surf echoing in their heads like the heartbeat of a human conscience. Another persistent symbol is the dust, dirt, and blood which can never be completely washed away just as the doctors and nurses can never erase their guilt or the memories of what they have seen and done. By extension the novel addresses Japan's collective war guilt, but even more importantly speaks to man's history of atrocities against our own kind.
This is a question at the heart of Endo Shusaku’s painfully brilliant The Sea and Poison – my third Endo novel after Silence and Deep River, two of my favorite pieces of literature. While less overtly religious, The Sea and Poison is teeming with spiritual, ethical, and moral questions that appear to be hallmarks of Endo’s work.
Set against the background of experimental vivisections performed on American prisoners of war during World War II, Endo’s focus is on the the participatory characters – the doctors and nurses – rather than the victims. He examines them in detail to uncover their varying motivations for allowing themselves to become complicit in such heinous acts. One wrestles severely with a guilty conscious; another feels no such remorse and wonders why. As one character puts it towards the end, “The conscience of man . . . seems to vary a good deal from man to man” (pp. 166). Fear, self-interest, peer pressure, nihilism, cowardice, rebellion, and even protective love – these are just a few of the driving factors behind the characters’ willingness to participate.
The reader may be quick to condemn, but Endo challenges us to look inside ourselves and consider if we, too, would have done the same: “You and I happened to be here in this particular hospital in this particular era, and so we took part in a vivisection performed on a prisoner. If those people who are going to judge us had been put in the same situation, would they have done anything different?” (pp. 166-167). In the prologue to the main story, Endo skillfully shows that the atrocities of war are often committed by common, seemingly inconspicuous people. A gas station attendant. A farmer. How would we fare in a similar situation? What would compel us to participate in torture and murder?
This book was difficult to read at times. The operating scenes left me squeamish. An intense feeling of tension and uneasiness hovers over the entire story. I am, once again, left extremely impressed by Endo’s work and will definitely be reading more in the future.
While the Sea and Poison is a short novel, it effectively explores the theme of morality and the practical ethics of person when under a great strain is not only willing to accept evil, but even become an active participate in unspeakable crimes. A combination for the demoralizing effect of air raids and the lust for power of the doctor’s at Fukuoka takes precedence over the care of patients to the point that their suffering and death have very little effect on the doctor’s who are all too ready to cover up mistakes and give into the demands of the military establishment. It was a bit surreal to see how the nihilism that swept Japan’s prewar culture and how the absolute devotion to authority led to doctor’s of all people to not only neglect their patients, but to harm and kill their patients with so little feeling. It’s scary to think how fragile people at times of personal crisis. The really remarkable thing about this book to me was how easy the decision became for many of the doctor’s and nurse’s who felt that there was really nothing else they could lose. A very good but very dark read whose themes are going to be with me for a while