- 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)
Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche (Panther) Paperback – 8 Feb 2001
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I couldn't even get through the first 10 pages of this book because of how poorly written it is. There are incomplete sentences and general poor grammar. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Anne M Turner
A really interesting read. Fascinating to hear about the everyday preoccupations of commuters, unexpectedly disrupted by being attacked with nerve gas on their way to work. Read morePublished 6 months ago by P. Milner
Once a gain a Book Club choice and provided good discussion.
Fascinating read, and although a book of 'reports' around the atrocity, it was easy to read, and fascinating in... Read more
After riding the Tokyo subway and liking Norwegian Wood I gave this try. An awful event seen through witnesses' eyes but the Aum sect remains vague as the perpetrator. Read morePublished on 19 May 2014 by Partial Mind
I've been meaning to read for some time and was not disappointed.
Great insight into Japanese culture. A compelling read in spite of the format.
"Underground" consists of two parts (published in Japan as separate volumes): 60 interviews with victims of the 1995 Tokyo sarin gas attack - mostly survivors, with some family... Read morePublished on 28 Dec. 2013 by chickpea
This is an important book. It deals with so many dark subjects - terrorism, cults, fear of death. Also as a westerner its fascinating to see how the Japanese view themselves as a... Read morePublished on 5 Nov. 2013 by Ultrawarden
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