3 unpublished Shusaku Endo plays discovered

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Shusaku Endo

Manuscripts of three unpublished plays by novelist and playwright Shusaku Endo (1923-1996) were recently found, the Nagasaki city government announced in late December. Endo is known for “Chinmoku” (Silence) and other works.

Before the discovery, only seven plays by Endo were known. All of those are included in the collected edition of his works.

An official of the Endo Shusaku Literary Museum in Nagasaki City said, “They depict the Japanese and Christianity, which is a major theme of Endo’s literature, and so they are very important works.”

The manuscripts were confirmed as Endo’s works during a reexamination of documents that his family had entrusted to the literary museum.

Analysis of the manuscript papers and other factors indicate that Endo may have written the plays in the latter half of the 1970s or later, when he was in his mid-50s.

One of the plays, apparently untitled, consists of 25 sheets of grid-lined writing paper, on the backs of which Endo himself handwrote a draft, and 124 sheets on which his secretary made a neat copy.

With the consent of Endo’s family, this newly discovered play has been titled “Zennin-tachi” (Good people). It depicts the turmoil of a Japanese who studies at a seminary in the United States in the early Showa era and then is conscripted into the military after returning to Japan.

Another play is a stage version of his own novel, “Watashi ga Suteta Onna (The Girl I Left Behind).” It consists of 22 sheets of grid-lined writing paper, on which Endo himself handwrote a draft, plus 105 sheets on which his secretary made a neat copy.

Another play, “Tetsu no Kubikase” (Iron collar), is based on a historical episode about a Christian daimyo named Konishi Yukinaga. It consists of a 28-sheet draft, plus 117 sheets of a neat copy.

“The Girl I Left Behind,” one of Endo’s finest works, was made into a movie and a musical. The original story takes the form of a collection of notes in which a young man remembers a woman from whom he parted, after his marriage to someone else.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A draft manuscript of “Zennin-tachi” is seen in the Endo Shusaku Literary Museum in Nagasaki City on Dec. 28.

In contrast to the novel, the play depicts the lead character recalling the past after turning 50.

The original drafts and neat copies are exhibited at the literary museum from Tuesday.

“Zennin-tachi” will be published in the March issue of Shincho magazine, the play version of “The Girl I Left Behind” will be carried in the February issue of Shosetsu Shincho magazine, and “Tetsu no Kubikase” will be carried in the February and March issues of Nami magazine.

Muneya Kato, a writer who regards Endo as his mentor, said, “I was surprised because ‘Zennin-tachi’ includes a literary theme which does not appear in Endo’s other works in the past.”

He added, “The plays may not have been published because the physical condition of Hiroshi Akutagawa, who staged Endo’s plays many times, had worsened in those years. [Endo] might have thought that he could not publish the works without Akutagawa’s involvement.”