Published in 1966 in Japan, "Silence" won the Tanizaki Prize, one of the country's highest literary awards. Its English translation was published three years later.
The book tells the story of a 17th century Portuguese Catholic priest who travels to Japan. At the time, Japan had a mixed history with Catholicism, first welcoming Jesuit priests, but later expelling them and forcing their converts to return to Buddhism.
Endo himself was a Japanese Catholic. Born in Tokyo, he was baptized around age 11, after his parents' divorce. Endo began his studies in Japan, and continued them in France. He returned to Japan in the mid-1950s after becoming ill. He became one of that country's leading literary figures.
Some consider "Silence" to be Endo's greatest achievement. Its Catholic themes have much in common with Scorsese's 1988 film "The Last Temptation of Christ." Like that movie, Scorsese has been hoping to make this film for some time: In 2009, it was reportedly cast, and in 2011, he announced that it would be his next picture.
"Silence" will co-star Ken Watanabe and is scheduled to begin filming this summer.