Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche

Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche

Paperback Harvill Secker

By (author) Haruki Murakami, Translated by Alfred Birnbaum, Translated by Philip Gabriel

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  • Publisher: VINTAGE
  • Format: Paperback | 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 198mm x 24mm | 181g
  • Publication date: 4 September 2003
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0099461099
  • ISBN 13: 9780099461098
  • Sales rank: 9,696

Product description

The true story behind an act of terrorism that turned an average Monday morning into a national disaster. In spite of the perpetrators' intentions, the Tokyo gas attack left only twelve people dead, but thousands were injured and many suffered serious after-effects. The novelist Haruki Murakami interviews the victims to try and establish precisely what happened on the subway that day. He also interviews members and ex-members of the doomsday cult responsible, in the hope that they might be able to explain the reason for the attack and how it was that their guru instilled such devotion in his followers.

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Author information

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. He is the author of many novels as well as short stories and non-fiction. His works include Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, After Dark and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. His work has been translated into more than forty languages, and the most recent of his many international honours is the Jerusalem Prize, whose previous recipients include J.M. Coetzee, Milan Kundera, and V.S. Naipaul.

Review quote

"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

Editorial reviews

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

Back cover copy

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.

Flap copy

From Haruki Murakami, internationally acclaimed author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" and Norwegian Wood, a work of literary journalism that is as fascinating as it is necessary, as provocative as it is profound. In March of 1995, agents of a Japanese religious cult attacked the Tokyo subway system with sarin, a gas twenty-six times as deadly as cyanide. Attempting to discover why, Murakami conducted hundreds of interviews with the people involved, from the survivors to the perpetrators to the relatives of those who died, and Underground is their story in their own voices. Concerned with the fundamental issues that led to the attack as well as these personal accounts, Underground is a document of what happened in Tokyo as well as a warning of what could happen anywhere. This is an enthralling and unique work of nonfiction that is timely and vital and as wonderfully executed as Murakami's brilliant novels.