Monday, 20 March 1995. It is a clear spring morning. You get up at the normal time, wash, dress, breakfast, and head for the subway. You board the train, crowded as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary. It promises to be a run-of-the-mill day. You don't notice, but as he is about to leave the carriage a man drops a plastic bag to the floor and ...
Monday, 20 March 1995. It is a clear spring morning. You get up at the normal time, wash, dress, breakfast, and head for the subway. You board the train, crowded as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary. It promises to be a run-of-the-mill day. You don't notice, but as he is about to leave the carriage a man drops a plastic bag to the floor and punctures it with the sharpened tip of his umbrella, releasing an invisible cloud of deadly nerve gas. On other trains at the same time four accomplices, all members of a doomsday cult, are doing the same...The Tokyo Gas Attack left twelve people dead and over thousands injured; many suffering from after-effects such as blindness, memory loss and paralysis as a consequence of inhaling sarin gas. Japan's leading novelist, Haruki Murakami, both horrified and fascinated by this apparently senseless act, has interviewed as many of the victims as were willing to talk to him in order to establish precisely what happened on the Tokyo subway that day. In Underground the survivors recount their thoughts and feelings at the time, marvel at the slow response of the emergency services, and reveal how the attack has changed their view of society. We are left with a sense not only of the nightmarish quality of the assault, but also of something amiss in Tokyo itself, perhaps in modern city life everywhere. In the second half of the book, Murakami interviews members of the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) cult, in the hope that they might be able to explain how their guru, Shoko Asahara, instilled such devotion in his followers and why he resorted to terrorism.
Publishers Weekly, 2001-04-09 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. (May 1) Forecast: Publication coincides with the release of a new novel by Murakami (Sputnik Sweetheart, Forecasts, Mar. 19), and several national magazines, including Newsweek and GQ, will be featuring this fine writer. This attention should help Murakami's growing literary reputation. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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