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Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche (Panther) Paperback – 8 Feb 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Paperback, 8 Feb 2001
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (8 Feb. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860468438
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860468438
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,840,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

On Monday 20 March 1995 the Japanese Aum cult released a deadly cloud of Sarin nerve gas into the Tokyo underground. 12 people were killed and an estimated 3,800 suffered serious after-effects. Haruki Murakami, one of Japan's leading novelists (considered by many to be one of the most important writers now writing), was both shocked and fascinated by the awful event. Murakami's response was to interview as many of those affected as he could (only 60 victims were willing to be questioned), interested as he was in the stories created by this one awful event on so many lives. He also interviewed a number of members of the Aum cult: "I'm sure each member of the Science and Technology elite had his own personal reasons for renouncing the world and joining Aum. What they all had in common, though, was a desire to put the technical skill and knowledge they'd acquired in the service of a more meaningful goal ... that might very well be me. It might be you". The result is Underground his first work of non-fiction. Murakami writes complex, sometimes overbearing and dense novels but he here makes very little intervention into his text, simply presenting a background sketch of each before allowing the victims and cult-members to speak freely for themselves through the transcripts. They present an intricate, rounded and cinematic view of day that none of us should ever forget. --Mark Thwaite --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Murakami shares with Alfred Hitchcock a fascination for ordinary people being suddenly plucked by extraordinary circumstances from their daily lives" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Not just an impressive essay in witness literature, but also a unique sounding of the quotidian Japanese mind" (Independent)

"A scrupulous and unhistrionic look into the heart of the horror" (Scotsman)

"The testimonies he assembles are striking. From the very beginning Underground is impossibly moving and unexpectedly engrossing" (Time Out)

"There is no artifice or pretension in Underground. There is no need for cleverness. What Murakami describes happens to ordinary people in a frighteningly ordinary way. And it is all the more bizarre for that" (Observer) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have read three of Murakami’s fictional works so far, and have really enjoyed them all. It is partly because of him that I am interested in learning more about Japanese culture and society. I rarely read non-fiction, and thoroughly enjoyed this.
Of course, the content isn’t light, nor is it entertaining, but it’s a fantastic insight into ordinary people who were caught up in the Sarin attack on the Tokyo subway. I actually preferred the first half of the book – accounts by victims of the gas attack - which I have heard some people refer to as repetitive. I don’t find this to be the case at all. Though interviewees are all recounting their version of the same day, their stories are VERY different. Their lives, backgrounds, recollections, experiences of the attack, reasons for being there and experiences since the attack, vary dramatically. It is this that makes the book so striking and compelling. These people are all individuals, not the faceless crowds portrayed by the media. I was touched by all their stories. I was shocked at how many people wouldn’t have been on the train or in the subway on that day or at that time but for a string of unusual or unfortunate circumstances.
The details about the lives of these people is wonderful reading. I learnt a fair bit about Japanese culture. Many Japanese still count on a job for life, choosing a career at the start of their working life, something I find rare here in the UK. I was also surprised by the number of people who, experiencing odd symptoms after their train journey, even knowing there had been a gas attack, continued to the office. I really warmed to all these interviewees.
I enjoyed slightly less, the interviews with Aum members / ex members.
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Format: Paperback
On March 20 1995 members of the Japanese sect Aum dispensed the nerve gas sarin in the Tokyo underground railway system. “Underground” is an extremely interesting tale by Nobel prize-candidate Haruki Murakami about the survivors’ experience. Unfortunately Al-Quaeda’s attacks have made the book even more topical than before. The book provides readers from abroad with a very fascinating view of the Japanese psyche – the very modest author didn’t exaggerate, when he chose the ambitious subtitle “The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche”.
Murakami acknowledges his debt to the American writer Studs Terkel, but Murakami writes in a style of his own. Like an antropologist he painstakingly describes how he and his two assistants found the persons he interviewed in 1996 and thoroughly discusses whether these persons are representative. It seems like Murakami sticks much closer to the interviews than Studs Terkel does, providing us with both his questions and the interviewees’ answers. Therefore “Underground” is not as fluent a read as Studs Terkel’s “The Good War”, but Murakami’s almost scientific approach makes it much easier to judge, whether the interviewees’ experiences were typical.
“Underground” contains interviews with 28 survivors of the gas attack, three relatives to people who died in the attack, two doctors who were involved in the treatment of the victims and eight former or actual members of Aum.
The interviews are very illuminating and moving in their descriptions of ordinary people’s reactions to a totally unexpected danger and their reactions afterwards.
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Format: Paperback
On a cloudless spring morning in 1995, Aum Shinrikyo unleashed hell in the crowded Japanese subway network. Sarin nerve gas was released in various underground trains, poisoning thousands of commuters and killing twelve. Nobel-prize candidate Haruki Murakami tells the tale of dozens of survivors, relatives of the victims, and Aum followers. "Underground" is a compilation of interviews and personal profiles, reporting the tragic events of that March morning from a multitude of angles. This work aspires to be journalistic in nature, but is emotional in tone. The publication is well researched and respectful of the victims and their privacy. The quality of the translation however is disappointing, reducing what could have been an impressive documentary of the sarin gas attack to a disjointed collection impressions and colourless personal narrative.
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By A Customer on 16 Mar. 2001
Format: Paperback
Fans of Murakami's work may be surprised by this book - rather than his trademark weird and wondrous prose, this is a collection of interviews with survivors of the 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo's underground rail system. At first the interviews seem repetitive, a Rashomon-style collection of different views of the same story. But persevere, and what emerges is a complex exploration of the Japanese psyche - how people felt before, during and after the attack, and how the constrictive and conformist nature of mainstream Japanese society was profoundly shaken by the events of this one day. Murakami elegantly pulls the strands together, commenting and drawing conclusions, but he lets the survivors tell their own stories. More chilling are the interviews with Aum Shinrikyo members present and past - much as we don't understand their acts and their thoughts, we can see how Shoko Asahara and the Aum cult could exert such influence over its followers. As I say, it's not your average Murakami book. But then, as an author he often writes about ordinary people facing extraordinary situations - and that's exactly what this book is all about.
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