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Underground

The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche

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Description

It was a clear spring day, Monday, March 20, 1995, when five members of the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo conducted chemical warfare on the Tokyo subway system using sarin, a poison gas twenty-six times as deadly as cyanide. The unthinkable had happened, a major urban transit system had become the target of a terrorist attack.
 
In an attempt to discover why, Haruki Murakami, internationally acclaimed author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and arguably Japan’s most important contemporary novelist, talked to the people who lived through the catastrophe—from a Subway Authority employee with survivor guilt, to a fashion salesman with more venom for the media than for the perpetrators, to a young cult member who vehemently condemns the attack though he has not quit Aum. Through these and many other voices, Murakami exposes intriguing aspects of the Japanese psyche. And as he discerns the fundamental issues leading to the attack, we achieve a clear vision of an event that could occur anytime, anywhere. Hauntingly compelling and inescapably important, Underground is a powerful work of journalistic literature from one of the world’s most perceptive writers.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

Apr 09, 2001 – On March 20, 1995, followers of the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo unleashed lethal sarin gas into cars of the Tokyo subway system. Many died, many more were injured. This is acclaimed Japanese novelist Murakami's (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, etc.) nonfiction account of this episode. It is riveting. What he mostly does here, however, is listen to and record, in separate sections, the words of both victims, people who "just happened to be gassed on the way to work," and attackers. The victims are ordinary people—bankers, businessmen, office workers, subway workers—who reflect upon what happened to them, how they reacted at the time and how they have lived since. Some continue to suffer great physical disabilities, nearly all still suffer great psychic trauma. There is a Rashomon-like quality to some of the tales, as victims recount the same episodes in slightly different variations. Cumulatively, their tales fascinate, as small details weave together to create a complex narrative. The attackers are of less interest, for what they say is often similar, and most remain, or at least do not regret having been, members of Aum. As with the work of Studs Terkel, which Murakami acknowledges is a model for this present work, the author's voice, outside of a few prefatory comments, is seldom heard. He offers no grand explanation, no existential answer to what happened, and the book is better for it. This is, then, a compelling tale of how capriciously and easily tragedy can destroy the ordinary, and how we try to make sense of it all.
Underground
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Asia
  • Published: Apr 10, 2001
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 384 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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