Read Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche by Haruki Murakami Online


Alternate cover edition here.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. 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 doomsdays cult responsible, in theAlternate cover edition here.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. 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 doomsdays 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....

Title : Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche
Author :
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ISBN : 9780375703881
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 309 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche Reviews

  • F
    2019-04-15 01:59

    Absolutely heartbreaking. I had no idea about this event in history until reading this. Insane.

  • Alina
    2019-03-22 03:49

    Amazing, thoughtful compilation of interviews conducted by Murakami. While the accounts of the gas attack itself are both shocking and fascinating, it also gives invaluable insight into what it means to be Japanese and the life that is expected of you. In fact, when reading the rigid and all-prevailing work ethic of the commuters on their way to work on the doomed trains, the sense of entrapping routine makes you wonder how 'crazy' the interviewed Aum members are for wanting to escape it. A cult may be written off as a collective conscience of weak robotic drones, but take a closer look at 'the Japanese Psyche' as the ill-fated commuters desperately try to ignore their symptoms as they continue struggling to work, in many cases half-blind and unable to walk.Having said that, Murakami doesn't sugar-coat the Aum members in his interviews and asks them some difficult questions; and rightly so, terrorism is never acceptable. To plea unawareness and blame higher-ups is how the Holocaust happened. But from what is meticulously presented in the book, there are no winners or losers, only a sense of futile resignation on both sides.

  • Lou
    2019-04-11 04:48

    On March 20, 1995, during the morning rush hour, five men dropped 11 bags of sarin on five subway trains in Tokyo. They punctured the plastic bags with the sharpened ends of umbrellas and exited the cars as the deadly liquid leaked onto the floor and evaporated into the air of the crowded trains. In the end, 13 people were killed and 6,300 more were injured, many of them left blind or paralyzed. Japan was flung into crisis mode. The men who caused the havoc were members of Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese quasi-Buddhist cult led by a former acupuncturist called Shoko Asahara. They hoped to bring about the apocalypse. At its height, the cult claimed more than 50,000 members (tens of thousands of them in Russia) and presided over a vast pool of funds, at one point claiming to control more than a billion dollars. It's been 20 years since the Tokyo subway attacks. Asahara and the other major planners of the attack sit on death row. Its chemical weapons laboratories have been shuttered. But where Aum failed in its mission to bring about a global apocalypse, it succeeded in leaving a dark bruise on Japanese society, one that still aches over two decades later. All this expertise came in handy when Asahara wanted to build an arsenal fit for a supervillain. In a gated community on Mount Fuji, Aum's biochemists engineered boatloads of chemical and biological weapons, from anthrax to weaponized Ebola. A weapons factory nearby produced AK-47 parts. In 1994 the group purchased a twin-turbine Mi-17 helicopter from Azerbaijan for $700,000, according to reporting done by Andrew Marshall and David Kaplan for their bookThe Cult at the End of the World: The Terrifying Story of the Aum Doomsday Cult, from the Subways of Tokyo to the Nuclear Arsenals of Russia. Before Aum dug its own grave with the Tokyo gas attacks, the cultists were getting terrifyingly close to obtaining a nuclear bomb. It is no wonder that Japan has been so deeply scarred by the group—they were petrifying. Japan was utterly bewildered that young, educated people would give up everything and devote themselves to such a deranged organization. Aum is actually still in existence albeit in two offshoots - Hikari no Wa, which means "Circle of Light," was started by a former higher-up of Aum as a splinter group. Aleph is the original cult, just with a different name.Haruki Murakami is my favourite author. I just love his writing style and surreal novels. This, however, is a little different - it's non-fiction for starters. I enjoyed reading this as much as his other books and I don't think it could have been as great a history book if it had been written by a different writer. Japanese authors seem to appeal to me in a way that no others can, I can't quite put my finger on exactly why this is but i'm not complaining! In this book, Murakami interviews the victims of the attack in order to try and establish precisely what happened that fateful day on the subway. He also interviews members and ex-members of the doomsdays 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. 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 fact that people are still suffering - not only the physical consequences but the suffering caused by a constant fear of something like this happening again a bit like the threat of attacks the West are experiencing from radical Islam, shows that such a momentous and horrific event never ceases to be on the mind of citizens. Just like in the West, Japanese political leaders are requesting more surveillance powers and are using the Aum affair to further their agenda.The Tokyo subway gassing remains the most serious terrorist attack in modern Japanese history and in many ways the Aum Affair is an open wound in Japan. It really is a heartbreaking event from recent history that will be forever remembered in Japan, when the wounds will heal is a question no-one can answer.Kids attending college now in Japan would have only been two or three during the Aum Affair. It will eventually fade into history and new series of crises will take its place. But for now, nearly 23 years on, the macabre mania of the cult still resonates.

  • Darwin8u
    2019-04-04 04:01

    "without a proper ego nobody can create a personal narrative, any more than you can drive a car without an engine, or cast a shadow without a real physical object. But once you've consigned your ego to someone else, where on earth do you go from there?"-- Haruki Murakami, UndergroundLooking back 20 years to the Tokyo Gas Attack, it seems inevitable that Murakami would write about it. Writing about dark tunnels that bridge both the victims and the devout, that link a damp tongue of evil with the milk of everyday kindness seems a natural space for Murakami. This isn't a perfect look at Japanese Death Cults or even the Sarin Subway Attack of 1995. It is basically a series of interviews. First with the victims of the attack, the survivors, the families, the doctors and scientists. The few who would actually talk about it. That was part of the purpose of this book. Japanese culture was quiet about the attack. The government would prefer to move past mistakes. The survivors too just wanted to move past their second victimization. The Japanese Psyche is an area that interested Murakami and he seemed to feel a need to explore the wounds that festered in Japan after the attack (and the Kobe quake). He felt a need to let the harmed speak; to give voice to silent; to clear the air. He wanted to return to his country and shine a light into the dark tunnels that many there wanted to seal off forever.After interviewing a few of the victims (most of the hundreds of victims didn't want to talk about it, and only a few dozen were willing to be interviewed, even with Murakami's VERY liberal interview process), and after Underground was first published, Murakami wanted to get a better sense of those members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult. So, he added a section. He might not get to interview those who actually perpetrated the Sarin gas attack, but he could speak to their brothers and sisters. He could use those same techniques to explore what drew these young, intelligent seekers into a cult that would perpetrate such a heinous attack. He did it with very little pre-judgement. Those he interviewed from Aum covered the track of belief. Some had left. Many had moved on into smaller pods, surviving the best they could. Some struggled inside belief. Some struggled outside of belief, now empty of their faith, but unable to return to any form of normalcy. In many way the book reminded me of both Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith and Lawrence Wright's Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. Murakami's book was less formal, less direct, and not quite as sharp as Krakauer or Wright's books. He let his subjects speak and thus the story would always remain unfocused a bit. His book's structural limitations let you sympathize with both groups, but there was very little mapping to the narrative. It was a good book, just not a great book. It was interesting, just not fascinating. I'm glad I read it more because it was a Murakami book and less because it was a great book about cults or terrorism. It was a check mark. It was a pin on a map. It alone, however, wasn't a destination.

  • Jackie
    2019-04-11 04:13

    There was a terrorist attack in the Tokyo subway system carried out in 1995 by a religious cult called Aum. They released poison gas, called sarin, during rush hour on several different train lines, killing 13 people, and injuring hundreds of others. This book contains interviews of people caught in the attack, as well as interviews of members of the Aum cult, although none of them were perpetrators of the attack.As a reader from another country, I feel like I'm missing a lot. I read the book feeling like Murakami was assuming I already was familiar with both the gas attack, and the Aum group, and I'm not, so I was having to piece together a picture from the narratives, and I still don't think I have the whole story. Also supposedly, it's a book about the Japanese psyche, and again, I felt like I was missing that background knowledge a Japanese reader would have. So, I'm having to infer a lot out of the interviews. Maybe that's the whole point. Murakami wants us to draw our own conclusions. The picture I got was of people so dedicated to their work, so much seeing themselves as not individuals, but as workers in a larger community, that they tried to carry on, no matter that they weren't feeling well. If they can just hang on until the next stop, they'll be able to get off the train and go to work. Very few of them complained about the weird smell, or having trouble seeing, or even breathing. They themselves were not that important. Again, this was all unspoken, but just what I'm concluding from how the people behaved as reported in the interviews. I don't know how unusual people were behaving on the day of the attack, compared to any other day. Murakami doesn't draw many conclusions, and he doesn't bring in any experts to explain how or why people behaved the way they did on the day of the gas attack. Sure, I can make some inferences, but I don't know how fair they are, given that we're only seeing the reports of people willing to talk to a reporter.After the first section, which concentrated solely on victims of the attact, came the interviews with members of the Aum group. The contrast was fascinating. Compared to the first group, who didn't have much sense of themselves as individuals, everyone who Murakami talked to from Aum seemed preoccupied about the Self, what is the true Self. I got the sense that in Japan, people are not encouraged much to be themselves. Not like here! In Aum, there was special training to uncover that hidden Self, or possibly to eradicate it completely in service to the leader. I'm not entirely sure, and I don't think the Aum were, either.The other attraction of the Aum group was getting to renounce all ties to the world, and how freeing that was to those in the group. Again, the underlying message seemed to be how high pressure and stressful the world must be for those living in Japan's consumerist society, but it was never stated outright. So, don't read this book looking for answers as to why the Aum conducted the terror attack, or for a general overview of Japanese culture. Perhaps in a future edition, the publishers could include an introduction about the attacks for readers from other countries. I liked this book a lot, I just wanted more.

  • Matthias
    2019-03-31 00:58

    I had to learn more about the Japanese as a form of consciousness. - Haruki MurakamiI've always known Murakami for his mystical, mythical stories. Following his characters is usually like taking dancing classes: the first steps seem quite sensible but soon you find yourself in an inextricable knot that you don't know how to get out of. His stories are from another realm, to such an extent that Murakami himself seemed way out there. I always pictured him as a black-clad dreamweaver, spinning his magic machine in a jazzbar attic with only cats for company, on a remote island somewhere on the other side of the world. Not so in Underground. Before leaving his abode to talk to the common people, the magician has taken off his robe and wizard hat and left his wand on his bedside table. To talk with real people and get their real stories. This book is non-fiction, but sometimes I found myself hoping that through this narrative a touch of magic could make it all seem a bit more light and distant. The contrary happened, and the remote island that is Japan might as well be the isles of Great Britain for how close this piece of investigative journalism has brought this special country to the shores of my mind. As you probably gathered from the blurb, this book is about the gas attacks that took place in the Tokyo subway system, on a beautiful day of spring in March 1995. A religious cult, Aum Shinrikyo also known as the "Doomsday cult", released packets of sarin gas, leaving many dead, many more injured and an entire country in shock. Murakami, in an effort to get to know his fellow countrymen better through the lens of this heinous aggression, undertook interviews pertaining to these attacks with survivors, relatives of the deceased, medical personnel and members of the Doomsday cult. This book consists of three main parts, the first being "Underground" the way it was originally published: the testimonies of victims and their relatives. The second part is a short essay by Murakami in which he tries to distill some lessons. The third section wasn't originally part of this book and is titled "The Place that Was Promised", containing interviews with (ex-)members of Aum Shinrikyo.Part 1: The victimsThe interviews are organised according to which train line the interviewees were on, each "train line" track introduced by the movements of the perpetrators of the gas attack. The interviews conducted with the victims are all structured in the same way. First you get a short, basic profile of the interviewee, usually consisting of his or her job, family situation and sometimes a little detail like whether or not they like sake or have a special character quirk. Despite these short introductions, the people having been interviewed seldom felt like real people to me. This is in part due to the structure and in part due to the interviewees reticence to speak up. After the introduction, the victims first talk about their daily morning routine: what time they get up, what trains they take, what job is expected of them. What this has taught me is that most people in Japan, or at least all of the people in this part of the book, are extremely duty conscious. Work is important. Work is life. 24-hour shifts, where employees sleep over on their job, are nothing out of the ordinary. Commuting for two hours or more to get to work and to only get back home again when the kids are all asleep is part of life. This part of the interview's structure is rather dry and factual, not to mention extremely repetitive. Apart from an endless enumeration of train schedules the only thing I remember is one guy waking up every day at 5 o'clock in the morning to water his huge collection of bonsai trees.Second, the interviewees talk about the gas attack itself. Where were they at the time? When did they notice things went wrong? What symptoms did they have? What did they do? This part of the interview, despite the shocking nature of the gas attack itself, is also quite dull due to all the repetition. The same symptoms of eyes tearing up, narrowed pupils resulting in a darkened vision, breathing problems and coughing fits are mentioned again and again. And again. This repetition does come with the (perhaps intended) effect of making the immediate effects of the gas attack indelible from the mind. Wet newspapers, mops, a PA-system filled with panic are but a few of the images that will stay with me. What was most notable though, was the self-effacing nature of these commuters. They show a lot of modesty when relating their suffering. Even when faced with the quite unusual symptoms of sarin entering the body, most people tried to carry on with their daily routine. They needed to get to work. They couldn't be late. They'd have some explaining to do if that report wasn't finished. One guy, almost blinded and choking, actually went ahead and bought a bottle of milk before going to the hospital. He bought milk every second day and the day of the gas attack was a second day so what else could be expected of him? In the midst of the gas attack most victims seemed more worried about what others would think of their behavior rather than their own health. They doubted their own judgment. And almost nobody would speak up. People would start coughing and collapsing, yet the power of routine prevailed. Until reality finally caught up with them and saved most of these peoples' lives.I haven't lived through an attack like this so I hesitate to call that reaction strange, but the reaction did help matters, since most people stayed remarkably calm during these gas attacks. There were no outbursts of panic, no stampedes of people. The commuters formed orderly lines to get out of the station. A lot of this naturally had to do with people having no clue what was going on, thinking the victims who collapsed were individual cases and their own symptoms being those of a flu or a common cold. The third part of the interview structure is about the after-effects of this attack. How did it affect the victims' health, work, personal relations? The first interviews are very silent on that, due to the disinclination of the interviewees to share too much personal information and due to the respect Murakami shows for that sentiment. This adds to the impression that these people feel less real somehow, less identifiable. One man filed for divorce the day after the attack after having seen the lukewarm temperature of his wife's response. Some people had trouble performing well at work, due to loss of energy and concentration. Most of the time they were treated well by their employers, but a part of me thinks it's only these stories that made it to the book. The modesty in suffering and the respect for employers and work bosses seems too great to allow publication of anything critical in this book. At the end of each interview the people are asked about their stance towards the cult and the perpetrators. These reactions range from anger and hatred, demands for the death penalty (didn't realize they still did that in Japan before this book), to a gentle understanding and acceptance of the facts, with a strong will to move on and get back to routine. Overall, I'd say this entire part could and maybe should have been stronger. Murakami showed a lot of respect for the victims, which is very understandable from a human point of view but leads to less immersive results in a book. He didn't tease them out of their cages and in the end the overall image is the same one gets of people you share a subway train with: anonymous, bland, interchangeable. Two testimonies, the one with the brother of a victim who slipped into a coma and Murakami's telling of meeting this woman after she woke up with severe impediments, were the strongest parts of this book. Maybe the "sensationalist" side is part of that since this is one of the most dramatic testimonies, which would be a shameful argument from my behalf, so I like to think it's because more backstory is offered to the people involved. The same goes for the story told by relatives of a victim who died. These gripping parts made me regret the interviews weren't conducted (or repeated) at a later stage, because none of the testimonies come with a certain sense of resolution or ending. You're left wondering what happened to these people afterwards, like whether or not that one woman got to go to Disneyland. But that comes with non-fiction, obviously, and my wonderment is testimony of Murakami occasionally allowing his readers to truly feel connected with the people he interviewed. Part II: EssayI don't have much to say on this, meaning it was rather underwhelming for me. It does show the human side of Murakami, a stranger in his own land. In the essay he also shows some linkages between this book and his works of fiction, most notably Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. At first I thought HBWatEotW (sorry about that) was based on the Disneyland testimony, that deals with a person forced to live locked inside her own head. But his work of fiction predated these interviews, making the links even more mysterious. The links are there and intriguing to read up on for any Murakami fan. Part III: The CultistsLet me first emphasize that the cultists in the interviews were not actively involved in the gas attacks. Aum Shinrikyo was a huge community and not everyone knew everything. Because this book started with the tale of the victims and the people helping them, the "Good"-part, it's almost natural for a reader to approach this part as the one of the "bad guys". But again, this is non-fiction, not Lord of the Rings, and the distinction between what is good and bad is not easy to make.A distinction that is easier to make is interesting and not interesting. These interviews were vastly more interesting, because Murakami acted more like a critical interviewer here. There was no fixed structure, and he dared to question what his interviewees said, resulting in inspired dialogues on societal values, a struggle for a sense of belonging and purpose, and what the life in a cult looks like. The testimonies were all gripping, the people felt like real people with interesting stories to tell. This gives the reader, especially those that stepped in with the idea that these are the "bad guys", the conflicting feeling of being able to relate better with them rather than with the victims. The people who decided to join the cult are a bit special, but not so special that you couldn't be one of them, that you couldn't relate. I certainly could. You read about people with artistic aspirations, or deeply scientific ones, with philosophical questions that have no place in a business-minded society. Some people, like doubtlessly many here on Goodreads, turn to literature and find answers there. Most of the cultists also started that way, getting their hands on books published by the cult and being inspired. They didn't feel like they belonged in society and thought to have found their home in the doomsday cult. Who doesn't sometimes feel out of place? Who doesn't, on their daily commute to work, sometimes wonder if they're not throwing away a little bit of their life every day? And that's where this book truly got interesting for me, far beyond gassed up subway stations and busy hospitals. The fact that society, in this case represented by the victims in part I, is painted as rather unwelcoming and insensitive made the questions spark more brightly in my mind. I've almost been member of a cult myself. I went to a "cult session" with a friend, thinking we'd just take philosophy lessons in French. We had no idea it was a cult at the time. Classmates were all very vulnerable and isolated people, looking for more philosophy in their lives, guidance, companionship. I got all that from books and was just there to improve my French so when things started getting weird, with common meals and nocturnal walks in the woods that don't seem to be part and parcel of philosophy classes, I got out of there. The philosophy lessons were getting a bit too one-sided for my taste. But it did give me a first-hand experience of how organisations like these operate. They fill a void. A void that society doesn't want to acknowledge? A void that it can't acknowledge? Society, for some people, doesn't hold all the solutions because it doesn't even get to asking all the questions. Where do these people go? Are cults always bad? In Aum Shinrikyo a lot of things seemed to work well, and it exists now under another name, minus the violent intentions. But how can a group of people, declaring themselves outside of society, function within that inescapable framework? How to avoid anger and resentment between belongers and non-belongers? Are non-belongers childish and selfish? Does society only consist of automatons who don't question anything and keep going with the flow? They remain open questions, but questions that merit being asked once in a while. ___I tried to repress the Urge. That specific, overpowering longing that all Goodreads-reviewers are familiar with. But the desire to slap stars on stuff has prevailed. The story can't be evaluated given it's an objective narrative of what really happened, told by the people who were in the midst of things. How do you give something as personal and real as that any stars? Also Murakami himself, through his essay, observations and choice of questions, shows a very personal side that I don't really feel like evaluating, however rigorous, refined and variegated the five-star-system may be. But that doesn't mean Underground stands above criticism, and I feel this book would have gained a lot if Murakami employed the same interview style with the victims as he did with the cultists, and if he would have returned to them at a later stage. Sarin has long-lasting effects, and one year after the gas attack isn't really long enough to measure what impact it had on the Japanese psyche. In this way, Underground missed an opportunity, but at the same time it delivered on what it set out to do in this review's opening quote, and even more, because I don't think observations made here are restricted to the Japanese. For me this book was central station, with many tracks of questions on what it means to fit into society and what the options are if you don't. A last word on the cover art for this book in order to drop a name I've been a long time fan of. All Murakamis I have bought are from Vintage, with artwork by Noma Bar (also known for cover art for Don DeLillo's books). Noma Bar always manages to very efficiently show two or three things at once, usually in symmetrical fashion. In this particular case the perspective of a subway station and the sense of danger have been perfectly brought together in a powerful image, that is pleasing to the eye to boot. Check out his other works if you like, they're all over the internet. and all over my bookcase too :-)

  • AC
    2019-04-17 04:55

    This is actually two books. Part I (1-223), titled "Underground" (Andaguraundo) was published in 1997; Part II ("The Place that was Promised") was written and published separately the following year.Part I consists of interviews with the victims (see updates; this section is too long and is tedious). Part II consists of interviews with members and former members of Aum Shinrikyo.And this is where things get really weird.... members of this cult -- who resemble a cross between the Moonies and Lyndon LaRouche -- are uniformly described as ordinary (read: "mediocre") Japanese who were nonetheless interested in the "deeper" problems of life. All of them describe feelings of alienation -- of feeling that there was "a hole in them", something "incomplete". Murakami points out, in one of these interviews, that adolescents who get interested in the question of meaning, usually start reading books -- philosophy, and so forth. But these individuals report that they were not readers. They simply relied on their intuitions....Aum held to what is known as Vajrayana Buddhism -- which, inter alia, suggested that murder can, in the hands of the enlightened, be a "fast path" to salvation -- (that is, for the salvation of the murderer...)'s point in all this, is that we should study these individuals not to find out what "they" think -- but to cast a reflected light back upon "us" -- the society (Japan's) that produced them. As he says (229): "Or rather, 'they' are the mirror of 'us'.... Now of course a mirror image is always darker and distorted. Convex and concave swap places... light and shadow play tricks. But take away these dark flaws and the two images are uncannily similar... Which is why we avoid looking directly at the image, why, consciously or not, we keep eliminating these dark elements from the face we want to see. These subconscious shadows are an 'underground' that we carry around within us, and the bitter aftertaste that continues to plague us long after the Tokyo gas attack comes seeping out from below."A strange book.

  • Aubrey
    2019-04-05 04:47

    Words can be practically useless at times, but as a writer they're all I have.A group of people killed another group of people. I could be talking about a number of things. A description of the present. An incident in history. A prediction of the future. The final result of brainwashing. The beginning of a new era. A cause. A conclusion. The means. The end. A resolution. An excuse. The threat executed by an oppressor. The exigency fulfilled by a nation. Culture clash. Revolution. Murder. Self-defense. Genocide. The right to bear arms. The death penalty. Patriotism. Nationalism. Faith. Religion. Heaven. Hell. Pick a cult, pick a cult: any cult'll do.[I]f someone had fallen down right in front of me, I like to think I'd have helped. But what if they fell 50 yards away? Would I go out of my way to help? I wonder. I might have seen it as somebody else's business and walked on by. If I'd got involved I'd have been late for work...Japan isn't the United States, the country my country where shootings have indoctrinated the public with the regularity of the weather. One of the interviewees who had been gassed by sarin hypothesized that, had the same incident occurred in a public transport on US soil, every passenger would have been gung ho from the get go and reacted to the incident much more effectively. Perhaps, but that would've depended on the relative level of segregation of the public transport, the social net of the state within which the public transport was contained, the standard deviation of care across the board of passengers under the capitalistic gutting that is the US healthcare system. Fire in a crowded theater, more like. And, of course, the one execution of function the United States is an absolute master of that would vent the fallout of an incident like the Tokyo Gas Attack across decades of reaction: the scapegoat.Haven't you offered up some part of your Self to someone (or some thing), and taken on a "narrative" in return? Haven't we entrusted some par of our personality to some greater System or Order?I recently caught up with a friend who's been stuck at an underpaid occupation for some time. It was manageable when concurrent with high school and somewhat excusable when conducted alongside college, but now that my friend is out and about with a degree and all, lies involving "experience" and "exposure" and less than living wage don't cut it when financial independence is a simultaneous expectation. Trust In This System And The System Will Reward, and you don't have to renounce the secular life entirely or follow the murderous orders of a cult to do it. The desk job and the standard hours and the cold hard cash may distance and disillusion, but see, I've been part of a genocidal military industrial complex since day one of my existence through no execution of will of my own, so forgive me if my priorities are a compromise of my awareness and my livelihood. There's nothing that saps the strength of continued existence more than the pile up of the little hypocrisies on top of the huge and terrifying paradoxes, so something like Aum doesn't baffle while the Navy advertises its global map of bases before Pixar movies.Later, when the police asked me "Didn't people start to panic?" I thought back on it: "Everyone was so silent. No one uttered word."It's the same old common denominator of death drawing together the dying and the death-dealing once again in a somewhat different environment using somewhat different tools and ideological modus operandi. One thing that's different is I can let myself trust a little more the truth I'm hearing, cause if I have to read another white person talking as if they know anything about non-white people and getting paid for it before I'm dead and gone, it'll be too soon. Another is that I've gotten over my whole anti-religion fad after years of being told on a theological level morality was where it wasn't and wasn't where it was, so I don't stop at Aum as the ultimate mystery and instead continue on to the government, and the corporate work force, and the fact that a nation not giving a fuck about certain groups of its people will always have consequences. Yet another is Murakami not screwing up his intentions too much, cause while it'd be absurd to believe any of these interviews are candid, the sheer number of instances of Japanese people talking to Japanese people from both sides of a common event results in as close to an honest text as can be achieved in this global age of ours. Both the author and those he interviews throw around the words "crazy" and "insane" too much, and there's a moment of disability inspiration porn that's just plain wrong, but if Murakami wasn't disturbed by how much the sarin victims mirrored the former and not so former Aum members in terms of certain thoughts and feelings to the point of questioning it to this day, I'll eat my hat.If there's someone looking ill on the train I always say, "Are you okay? Want to sit down?" But not most people — I really learned that the hard way.You can't come together and stay together and act all surprised when the actions of the group reflect on the individual in such a way that is completely different from the side of the story you were initially drawn in through. All that matters is the means by which you trade in the blood on your hands for peace of mind. You don't need religious fanaticism for that.I came to them from the "safety zone", someone who could always walk away whenever I wanted. Had they told me "There's no way you can truly know what we feel," I'd have had to agree. End of story.

  • Lobstergirl
    2019-03-25 08:12

    The bestselling novelist Haruki Murakami gives a Studs Terkelish treatment to the Tokyo sarin gas attacks of 1995 which killed 12 and injured hundreds. There's a great deal about Terkel's methods to like (when Terkel uses them), but they fall flat here. I don't think the oral history treatment works well in this instance, in which every victim is in the same location (the subway system) and is subjected to the same assault; the approximately 30 victim accounts are extremely repetitive, which becomes numbing, and while horribly tragic, also boring. (On the upside, I am now familiar with all the symptoms of sarin gas and will know what's happening if I come under attack.) The same is largely true of the cult members' accounts. (None of the cult members he interviewed were involved in the attacks, and did not know about them in advance.) Not surprisingly, many people who join cults are having problems living "normal", well-adjusted lives; they tend to be society's misfits; they usually hated school. While they generally acknowledge that the gas attacks were wrong, some of them remained with the Aum Shinrikyo cult (which still exists, but under state surveillance).Murakami had been living abroad for eight years in Europe and the U.S. when he decided to write Underground. He felt it was time "to probe deep into the heart of my estranged country." The Kobe earthquake and the sarin gas attack, occurring within three months of each other, helped focus his probe. He finds that passivity and unthinking deference to authority are part of the Japanese psyche, as evidenced by the slowness to take affected trains out of service, the inadequate emergency and medical response to the attack, and by the cult joiners. He tries to figure out why the Aum leadership, whose members were well educated professionals, could have participated in terrorism. He concludes that the real world, with its imperfections, contradictions and defects, dissatisfied them. They sought utopias, which gave them a sense of purity of purpose.I'm a nuts-and-bolts kind of person. I want to know how the sarin was manufactured. How did they get it into plastic bags without poisoning themselves? How were the bags sealed - was it one of those vacuum-pack systems you can buy from an infomercial? Did they do a dry run to see if anyone would be suspicious of bags being dropped? Murakami presumably isn't motivated by these kinds of questions, which is why I'm often more interested in reading terrorist trial transcripts than psychological investigations.

  • Katherine Addison
    2019-04-17 05:49

    [library]This is a book about the sarin attack in the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995. As you would expect from Murakami, it is thoughtful and careful. It consists primarily of interviews; the first part, Underground, is interviews with survivors; the second part, The Place that was Promised, is interviews with members and former members of Aum Shinrikyo, the cult responsible for the attacks. The translation, insofar as I can judge, seems good. I hope it's accurate. The one thing I would have liked was for more Japanese words to be included along with their translations--there are several words that get used frequently by the interview subjects that I would like to have the original word for, simply because they seem so important. That's a quibble, not a real defect in the translation, and is probably highly idiosyncratic. I have two reactions to this book. One is the writer's reaction to everything, including their own personal disasters of overwhelming magnitudes: how can I use this in a story? It always feels like a callous and insensitive reaction, and I'm generally reluctant to articulate it for that reason, but it's actually the opposite, because it's asking, how can I take this experience into myself and turn it into something I can send out again that other people can read and understand and empathize with? Which insofar as I'm willing to argue for a higher purpose to storytelling (aside from just, people need stories to stay alive and sane), is the higher purpose I would argue for. So, yeah, on that level, this is a great book for worldbuilding writers to read to understand the depth and complexity that our worldbuilding most often lacks. I say this not to equate modern Japan with an imaginary country, but to say that our imaginary countries need to aspire to be as deep as Japan is in Murakami's work here (yes, that's a pun; yes, I meant it). If art is going to imitate life, it needs to do so consciously and carefully and with the best understanding we can bring to the table of what we're trying to imitate. And it works better if we read about a city we don't know so that our own familiarity doesn't blind us to how much information is being presented. I don't know a great deal about Japanese society in general, or the city of Tokyo in particular, so this was a window on an alien world for me (using "alien" in the Ruth-amidst-the-alien-corn sense, not the aliens-from-outer-space sense), and I found it fascinating. As someone who's trying right now to invent a city that has a true, deep, four-dimensional presence in my narrative, this was a kind of textbook of all the things I need to think about and understand to make that kind of verisimilitude possible.This book was an amazing worldbuilding demonstration, though, precisely because Murakami isn't worldbuilding at all. He's telling us (and here I mean "us" as both Japanese readers and the Anglophone readers of the translation) about a real place and real people and a real tragedy that happened in 1995. He's not trying to present 1995 Tokyo to readers of a novel; he's trying to come to grips with a terrible event in his own life and his country's life.(This is why you should occasionally branch out into nonfiction, even if you write fantasy, so that you get Tokyo, for example, as it was in 1995, not Tokyo as filtered through a writer's imagination and tailored to the needs of a story.)And that's where the writer's reaction blends into the reader's reaction, which is that this is a fascinating book about a terrible tragedy. Murakami admits he's an amateur interviewer, which he makes up for by being patient and thorough and manifestly a good listener. The survivors' accounts are vivid and telling: they capture how tragedy enters your life without your suspecting its existence and how it alienates you from your own life. Also how confusing a disaster is as it unfolds. (Which is a pretty good practical takeaway, if you need one.)The Aum Shinrikyo interviews are equally fascinating, partly because of the way that Aum's Cloud Cuckooland morphed from utopia to dystopia with almost no one even noticing. None of Murakami's interviewees had ANY IDEA that their leadership was planning to plant packets of sarin in the Tokyo subway (and I do in fact believe that they did not know). These people, both those who remain in Aum and those who have left it, are almost all absolutely baffled at how something that was so meaningful and valuable to them could possibly have resulted in the calculated monstrosity of the sarin attack. (A very few of them saw Mr Hyde behind Aum's beaming Jekyll-Buddha face before 1995 03 20, but even they didn't know the scope of the rottenness at Aum's core, and they clearly can't find a story that makes sense of it.) So on the one hand, there's a very serious discussion about Buddhism and asceticism and the perceived brokenness of Japanese culture that carries through several of the interviews; on a second hand there's a patchwork description of the inner workings of a cult; and on a third hand there are a series of intensely personal discussions about belief and disillusionment. Murakami captures snapshots of people at every point along that progression, from those who are still trying to salvage Aum Shinrikyo as a movement to those who have denounced it along with its founder. All of them are struggling to reintegrate in any way at all with the world outside Aum, especially given the police persecution they were continuing to suffer in 1997 & 1998 when Murakami was doing his interviews. (Every time they find jobs, the police come along and tell their employers about their affiliation with Aum, and bang! there they are out of a job again. At least in 1998, they were remaining very insular, mostly existing in a bootstrap economy with other outcasts and refugees from Aum.) Murakami's sections of meta, about the interview process and his own experience, are thoughtful and compassionate. He can't make sense of what happened, any more than the survivors and the members and ex-members of Aum can, but I feel like this book does succeed in framing the mystery at its center so that we understand the dimensions of the thing that we cannot comprehend.

  • David
    2019-03-22 00:51

    The rain that fell on the city runs down the dark gutters and empties into the sea without even soaking the ground.The sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995 were perpetrated by Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese religious cult, and attracted wide media attention. Aum emerged in 1984 when previously strict measures by the Japanese government against new religions were relaxed. During the post-war American occupation and in the years following, this laxness was an attempt to show that the new political regime in Japan was pursuing progress toward religious freedom. The group’s leader, Asahara Shoko, envisioned himself as a “Lamb of God” and prophesized a doomsday that culminated in a nuclear Armageddon between the United States and Asia. Cult members included a significant number of young scientists, engineers and young students who were drawn in by Asahara’s offering of an alternative to rigid Japanese conformity. Ian Reader points out that young people were attracted by the media’s portrayal of Asahara as “an embittered youth at war with Japanese society from early on.” Despite some media attention in years prior to the attacks, the group gained notoriety following the subway attack in 1995. Membership had reached an estimated 10,000 in Japan and an equal amount in Russia.The March 20, 1995 attacks killed eleven people and forced 5,500 others to seek medical attention; the attack is the largest incident of terror on Japanese soil in its history. The attack was launched during peak rush hour to maximize exposure, with five members releasing sarin gas at predetermined station locations on the Chiyoda, Marunouchi and Hibiya lines. Once punctured, the bags containing the sarin gas permeated the subway cars and stations, affecting passengers, subway employees and those with whom affected people came in contact. Given the large scale of the attack, the Japanese government demanded information about the attacks and the media gladly provided it – however, the story that the media propagated may have been divergent from the true facts about the cult and about the attacks. Furthermore, the media continued to run Aum-related stories through July; the first day that there was no Aum-related story in Asahi newspaper was 114 days after the event. State-owned NHK and private networks ran Aum-related stories thought August. According to broadcasters’ statistics, from March 20, 1995 until mid-June, more than 500 media hours were devoted to Aum, outstripping even the wedding of the crown prince (419 hours), and viewer rates topped all other topics. These statistics, taken with the media framing, exemplify the media’s potential pandering of stories to Japanese society’s appetite for news on the “atypical” and sensational stories of the Aum cult members and the subway attacks.(The above is from a term paper I wrote for a freshman seminar. For the full dose of laudanum, the paper is located here.)Though his surreal/fantastic fiction has earned him international celebrity (and, what I believe are undeserved, pleas for a Nobel award), Haruki Murakami proves to be a talented non-fiction writer and a keen interviewer in his collection Underground which chronicles the life changing effects of those affected, the experiences of unsuspecting spectators, and the dark psychological catacombs of the Aum followers themselves. What is most striking in this collection is the deadening routine of Japanese society: a society whose somnabulating routine brought it over the very precipice of this disaster. Post-war Japan became a nation of sleepwalkers, stuck between the international pressure towards self-loathing, and the national fervor for rejuvenation and rebirth. The society, which in the 1980s and 1990s was swept up in an economic boom became increasingly fixated on efficiency: business efficiency begot moral expediency and the rigid cage of social conformism. Aum won over many young intellectuals (students, engineers) who felt alienated by a strict and severe culture which ceremoniously cast out those who failed to toe the line of propriety and conformity.Murakami's interviews reveal an alarming composure and similarity between the terrorized and the agents of terror. Many's lives were changed forever, families broken up, financial pressure increased, jobs lost, but the stories of the terrorists are surprisingly stirring. Both sides of this story are moving. Despite the villainy of the Aum cultists, they are portrayed here as humans, flawed and outcast, blindly following a demogogue who made them feel included. Through the two sections of this volume, Murakami casts the shadow of blame across the whole country of Japan, which has lost its humanity in the strident effort to mechanize and automate. In a country where the train arrivals and departures are determined to the hundredth of a second, the well of human compassion has gone untended and dried alarmingly low. A media obsessed with sensation largely ignores the fates of victims: slummed silhouettes on the cement citadel of the humming Japanese econocracy. Murakami seeks the truth: truth in the terrorized and truth in the terrorists, and finds a truth central to a country which has worn thin its moral fiber and spent its currency of compassion.Like many modern societies, the narrative of Murakami's Japan, in Underground as well as his body of fiction, is a society of the alienated Self. The economic-fervor and moral no-mans-land of post-war Japan becomes weighted battle between the individual self and the over-industrialized economic machine of Modern Japan. A landscape idealized as sloping hills, patchwork rice-paddies, torii gates and Buddhist temples, trickling rivulets and the red rising-sun over the spectral face of Mt. Fuji: the ever pale-purple peak on the horizon, has become a cement-gray prison of daily routine, social conservatism and creative suppression. The boom of metropolitan Tokyo, the explosion of the export economy: all things were cast in the shadow of Yen. But more than a profit-hungry monster, Japanese society became a different sort of monstrosity: one which became complicit with its own disaster, a compliant slave to subway schedules and time-tables. Not the profit-motive, but the straight-and-narrow. Spiritual decline, alienation for society, demanding schedules which ate away most of everyday became the ostensibly innocuous venoms which fed the lurking monster of terror in the shadows of industrialized and modernized Japan life. Murakami unmasks victim and villain with a balance of distance and human compassion, which reveals both the intricate threads of individual lives: the warp and woof, minute and measure of the humans of March 20, 1995, rather than the media-embellished shadow puppets of evil and their unsuspecting doe-eyed innocents, as well as the torn tapestry of a nation in trouble.

  • Giang đọc sách
    2019-04-08 07:00

    Mình đang đọc phần đầu tiên của cuốn sách, khi Haruki tiến hành phỏng vấn các nạn nhân bị nhiễm chất độc sarin. Thật sự xúc động! Và cảm phục người Nhật sâu sắc tới tận cùng. Về cách họ hành xử trong tình huống ấy, cách họ nhìn nhận và đối diện với vết thương cả thể xác lẫn tinh thần của không chỉ bản thân họ, mà của cả người thân của họ.Mình mới đọc được khoảng 15 câu chuyện của 15 người khác nhau, nhưng câu chuyện nào cũng đặc biệt xúc động. Bởi vì nó quá chân thật, chân thật như thể người ta viết lại nhật ký của một ngày như bao ngày khác, chỉ bởi vì cuộc khủng bố đó mà từ đó về sau không còn những ngày bình thường nữa. Ngầm là tác phẩm ghi chép theo lối báo chí, ở tác phẩm này dường như Haruki đã rời xa khỏi tác phẩm, chỉ xuất hiện chút ít trong lời tựa đầu sách hoặc vài câu hỏi gợi mở. Nhưng hẳn rằng tác phẩm này vẫn mang phong cách rất riêng và đặc trưng của Haruki ở cách ông chắt lọc thông tin sau từng buổi nói chuyện kéo dài hàng tiếng đồng hồ của những người được phỏng vấn, cách ông đặt câu hỏi để gợi mở những suy nghĩ trong tầng sâu kí ức muốn lãng quên của họ. Những gì được kể ra, là câu chuyện của riêng nạn nhân hoặc người thân của nạn nhân, nhưng được kể ở những góc độ mà Haruki muốn biết, khơi gợi tính chân thực, giản dị trong cuộc đời của họ. Giả rằng có một nhà báo nào khác hỏi, hẳn họ sẽ muốn biết những khía cạnh khác, nên cho dù câu chuyện vẫn là như vậy, nhưng thứ thông tin đến với độc giả là mình đây có thể sẽ không có hình ảnh của bữa cơm gia đình, của người đàn ông khi choáng váng vẫn còn sắp xếp giấy tờ gọn gàng.. Một lần nữa vẫn muốn nhắc lại rằng, vốn luôn ngưỡng mộ nể phục người Nhật, khi đọc cuốn sách này mình vẫn quá xúc động về nhân cách sống của họ!có hai suy nghĩ tức thời xuất hiện khi đọc đến Chương 41. thứ nhất là mình phát hiện ra, à thì ra truyền thông Việt Nam cũng giống truyền thông Nhật hồi năm 1995 ra phết, nghĩa là lúc nào người ta cũng thích xoáy vào những chuyện đối lập rõ ràng như tốt - xấu, ô nhiễm - trong lành, bình thường - bệnh hoạn .. nghĩa là một cái gì đó phải cực đoan, hấp dẫn, li kì như phim Mỹ vậy. trong khi hầu như chúng ta đều phải chạy xe đi làm dù buồn ngủ, kiên nhẫn làm việc dù rất chán, bình thản nhìn mặt sếp dù rất muốn đấm, .. đại khái như vậy chứ chúng ta không "chết ngay lập tức vì Hà Nội ô nhiễm thứ 2 thế giới", "tát rụng răng vì sếp nói quá nhiều" .. đa phần mọi sự trong đời sống nó diễn ra chậm chạp, yên tĩnh và cụ thể hơn nhiều so với những gì báo chí cứ đưa tin hàng ngày. thứ hai là chuyện những kẻ "bệnh hoạn" khủng bố bằng sarin ở Nhật năm 1995, ở một tầng nhận thức nào đấy họ cũng như những người "bình thường" khác, giống mình với các cậu. mình nhớ tới chuyện hồi ở Pháp mình bị bọn cùng lớp kì thị mình ghét chúng nó kinh khủng. hồi đấy mỗi lần ngán ngẩm đi bộ qua cánh đồng bất tận tới lớp, nghĩ tới cảnh lại phải nhìn thấy mặt từng đứa đáng ghét ấy, trong đầu mình hiện lên câu hỏi là Nếu mình bắn bùm bùm từng đứa một thì sau này cảnh sát điều tra họ sẽ kết luận mình là phần tử khủng bố đơn lẻ cực đoan đúng không nhỉ? yes, mình đã nghĩ rất nhiều liệu họ có gọi mình là "phần tử khủng bố đơn lẻ cực đoan" hay không, mình muốn họ gọi mình như thế nếu mình có bắn chết hết bọn ở lớp. mình không muốn liên lụy đến Hương, người mình hay nói chuyện lúc đi bộ qua cánh đồng bất tận, với cả lúc ấy từ "đơn độc" rất hợp với mình. chuyện này với chuyện khủng bố ở Nhật liên quan tới nhau chút ít là vì mình chợt giải đáp được câu hỏi bấy lâu nay khi phẫn nộ nghe tin người chết do khủng bố, ấy là bọn khủng bố cũng là người giống mình, giống như mình chắc cũng từng đi bộ đơn độc ở đâu đó. nhưng họ đã đi sai đường ở một quãng nào đấy, sai mãi mà không thoát ra được. thật tiếc và buồn. còn mình. tất nhiên là mình không khủng bố cũng không bắn ai cả, bây giờ nghĩ lại còn thấy chuyện đó thật buồn cười. nhưng mà đấy, cuộc sống thật lắm không giống thứ gì được miêu tả đâu, mà phải cảm nhận cơ các cậu ạ.

  • Seth T.
    2019-03-29 23:50

    Murakami's Underground was by turns devastating and intriguing. There were moments I wanted to abandon humanity in a wastebin behind an abortion clinic and others when I sat there dumbfounded, thinking Wow, humanity, you're like the most interesting people on earth. Love to hate to love to hate. Again and again.That's what books about patent insanities do to me.Underground chronicles the psychological aftermath of Aum Shinrikyo's 1995 deposit of Sarin nerve gas across several of the mass-transit trains that service the city of Tokyo. It does so primarily by way of interview with victims of the attack (and at times, family members of victims), followed both by an extended essay by Murakami himself and a post-published epilogue of interviews with members and former members of the Aum cult (none of whom were involved in or even aware of the attacks until much later).Honestly, I found myself pretty well enthralled by each discreet portion of the book despite the fact they may as well have been their own separate books. There's little thematic crossover between the three parts beyond the obvious shared subject matter, so the reader must change gears as each section bears down to become the new asphalt of the road Murakami presents.In the first section, we feel anger and fury and pain and anguish and maybe even a little terror as we read firsthand accounts of train passengers who gradually succumbed to the Sarin's effects. Murakami keeps each of his interviews in roughly identical form beginning with a healthy bit of background on the interviewee, so that we can get to know our protagonists before we watch them fall to the real-life effects of religious madness. Then subjects generally recall the day before the attack and follow up with the morning's events as they unfolded to their own particular perspective. Finally, each individual speaks about any lingering effects from the attack, whether physical or psychological, and Murakami caps the interview by asking after the victim's emotional response to Aum, to the government, to Japan. While the descriptions of the attack itself are certainly harrowing, I found the emotional response to Aum the most intriguing. Some individuals are furious (some of these going so far as to say that they would participate in the execution of Shoko Asahara if the opportunity presented itself). Some are beyond anger and strike the reader as just dynamically confused by the whole event. Others are far more detached, saying things like how they do not approve of Aum's actions but they don't understand how anger can solve anything now.In the second section, Murakami takes us from knee-deep involvement to an almost wholly detached treatment, a kind of autopsy of both Aum's actions and Japan's inability to react to it in any helpful way. This section was well-proposed but would have been better received in the original work, functioning as a bit of epilogue to the whole endeavor. As it is, Murakami's words are sandwiched between the tragedy of the victims and the eerie logic of the cultists and so is kind of overwhelmed and, so, muffled.The final section features The Other Side. Mostly. Almost to a person, the interviews in this section denounce outright the use of Sarin against the civilian population, so we don't get to hear from any of those who actually carried out Asahara's orders. Still, this final third of the book offers some powerful insights into the minds of those who would join an apocalyptic Buddhist splinter-group that would move from yoga-like practices and asceticism to hosting a militaristic, hunted paradigm. Murakami's questioning of these cult members is valuable because it demonstrates how adherence to any system of belief, whether fringe cultic, mainstream religion, or simply secular ideology can lead individuals into difficult and dangerous places.[note: I should also express my disappointment upon discovering that a good two-thirds of the victim interviews were cut for the American release. Disappointing and anger-making. As if someone consciously decided that those victims' pain was not great enough to be valuable to an American audience.]

  • Gitte
    2019-03-21 08:06

    The Beginning: Two men were assigned to drop sarin gas on the Chiyda line: Ikuo Hayashi and Tomomitsu Niimi.In ‘Underground’, Murakami interviews victims of the Tokyo gas attack. He asks them about their life and work, makes them describe in detail how they experienced the attack, what happened afterwards and how their life has been ever since.It was a terrifying yet fascinating read. You could feel the claustrophobia and fear as people in the underground discovered that something was wrong, and the panic when they started getting really sick and no help came. The most terrifying descriptions were of the victims who didn’t understand that they had been subject to a terror attack. Some were asleep on the train, and woke up confused and sick, just hurrying out and stumbled into work. Some were in complete shock and went on with their daily routine, even though they felt very sick and couldn’t see properly. It made me think how horrifying it must be to be subject to a terror attack. And how confusing it must be as well.No one said a thing, everyone was so quiet. No response, no communication. I lived in America for a year, and believe me if the same thing had happened in America, there would have been a real scene. With everyone shouting “What’s going on here?” and coming together to find the cause.My blog: The Bookworm's ClosetSome reading moments with Underground:

  • Thanh Hằng
    2019-03-19 04:05

    Đọc Ngầm, tôi sợ. Tôi thấy mình cứ yếu đi dần dần với mỗi chân dung người hiện ra. Chưa có quyển sách nào của Murakami lại khiến tôi sợ đến vậy. Thường sách của Murakami sẽ khiến tôi hơi khó hiểu chỗ này chỗ kia, bối rối và mệt mỏi truy tìm ý nghĩa một chút. Ngầm thì là sách phi hư cấu, nhưng lại khiến tôi sợ kinh khủng. Không phải nỗi sợ mơ hồ những điều không đoán định được như ma quỷ, mà vì những điều tăm tối nhất trong con người (cả con người tôi, nhất là con người tôi), vốn bị nén chặt ở tầng sâu ý thức, đang được mời lên và truy vấn để lộ diện rõ ràng nhất. Những điều đen tối đó có sức mạnh huỷ diệt và khiến người ta sợ (vì thế người ta mới phải nhốt chúng cho thật sâu chứ.)Thật ra, Ngầm có 2 phần. Và phần 1 phỏng vấn về những nạn nhân sarin thì tôi không sợ chút nào. Bất cứ câu chuyện về sự vượt qua thảm hoạ và khủng hoảng dù bi thương đến đâu cũng đều mang đến cảm giác dễ chịu và tin tưởng về sức mạnh của con người. Sự hồi sinh sau huỷ diệt, kiểu thế. Suốt cả tuần tôi đọc phần này, thấy lòng mình bình lặng và vui vẻ. Đến cuối tuần, tôi mới bắt đầu đọc phần Hậu-Ngầm, phần phỏng vấn về những thành viên của Aum, giáo phái tổ chức rải sarin. Trước đó, khi đọc về những câu chuyện của nạn nhân sarin, tôi cũng hết sức thắc mắc về Aum rồi. Tôi luôn có kiểu thắc mắc về động cơ đằng sau những hành động độc ác của con người. Có dạo tôi đi đọc về phát xít Đức, những kẻ giết người hàng loạt và những kẻ ăn thịt người các loại. Là người hoàn toàn ghê sợ bạo lực dưới mọi hình thức, tôi luôn không thể hiểu nổi điều gì dẫn bất cứ một con người nào đến những hành vi dã man như vậy. Tôi không thể quy dẫn đơn giản, rằng có những người sinh ra đơn giản là độc ác thế. Mình cứ yên tâm đứng ở phía này của Thiện là ok rồi, còn bọn Ác kia thì mặc kệ chúng, với tất cả những hỏng hóc kinh khủng của chúng. Một trong những bài học quan trọng nhất tôi đã học trong thời gian học đại học, là chẳng có gì tuyệt đối đen trắng cả, chỉ có những góc nhìn khác nhau và màu xám là tuyệt đối thôi.Vậy nên vừa đọc đoạn đầu câu chuyện về vụ sarin năm 1995, tôi vừa thắc mắc mãi. Điều gì dẫn những con người ưu tú và xuất sắc hết mực của xã hội Nhật đi đến hành vi giết hại những người vô tội lạnh lùng như thế. Tại sao họ lại đi theo Aum nếu đó chỉ là một trò hề khủng bố ngu ngốc và độc ác của một tên giáo chủ tuyên bố mình đã đạt được giác ngộ? Tôi xem Youtube, thấy người của Aum mặc áo quần trắng kì dị, nghe cuộn băng thu ma quái lặp đi lặp lại một lời gì đó, thực hành những hình thức hành xác dưới nước trong khi Giáo chủ lẩm bẩm gì đó. Khi giáo chủ ra lệnh, không ai có thể cưỡng lại mệnh lệnh ấy. Trong những bài viết về Aum trên BBC, Guardian và nhiều báo khác, chữ brainwash được lặp đi lặp lại.Tôi bắt đầu đọc phần Hậu-Ngầm trong tâm thế tràn ngập định kiến về Aum như một tổ chức ma quỷ tẩy não người, khiến họ mụ mị, đánh mất ý thức. Thế mà, trong sự kinh ngạc tuyệt đối, tôi nhận ra những cựu thành viên và thành viên hiện tại của Aum lại hoá ra là những người bình thường, có thật, với khát vọng đi tìm một điều gì đó có ý nghĩa hơn đời sống mỏi mòn này. Họ thật tâm đi tìm ánh sáng với những động cơ trong sáng, đẹp đẽ và chân thành nhất. Họ truy tìm ánh sáng, và khi thấy ánh sáng đó, họ sẵn sàng rũ bỏ tất cả để bắt đầu hành trình đến gần với bản thể mình hơn. Họ sẵn sàng bỏ công việc, bạn bè, gia đình, của cải…để gia nhập Aum, cống hiến bản thân cho một lý tưởng cao đẹp, tu tập gian nan để sống cuộc đời có ý nghĩa, thay đổi những điều đang xảy ra trong xã hội. Đi tìm ánh sáng, họ lại gặp bóng tối. Đoạn cuối của câu chuyện chất độc sarin là hàng thành viên Aum đứng trước vành móng ngựa, với mức án tử hình và chung thân vì tội ác chống lại loài người.Tôi thích cách lý giải của Murakami, không phải là câu hỏi, tại sao họ lại tham gia Aum trong khi họ là những người ưu tú, xuất sắc nhất, mà là họ đã trở thành tín đồ của Aum vì họ đã ưu tú, xuất sắc và luôn tuyệt vọng muốn đi tìm ý nghĩa của cuộc sống như vậy. Nhưng rồi lại bị dẫn dắt sai lầm. Giống như là loài động vật giáp xác. Bỏ đi những lớp vỏ để trở nên thành thật nhất và dễ bị lung lạc nhất. Họ đã đánh mất bản thể và bị lung lạc bởi những ý tưởng. Những ý tưởng thật sự nguy hiểm. Nó có sức mạnh kinh khủng để dời non lấp bể, để giết người, để huỷ diệt.Ở Aum, như mọi tôn giáo khác, lại là ý tưởng về sự nhân danh, mục đích vượt trên phương tiện. Từ lý thuyết của Phật Giáo Mật tông, không giống Phật giáo Đại Thừa và Tiểu Thừa, Mật tông cho rằng có con đường đi đến giác ngộ ngắn hơn. Đi con đường tắt ấy, người ta có thể vượt qua lằn ranh phân biệt thiện và ác. Asahara sử dụng lý thuyết đó để che lấp cho những mầm ác dần dần nảy sinh trong Aum. Tín đồ đầu tiên chết trong một nghi thức hành xác tôn giáo (Để truy tìm sự giác ngộ, Aum sử dụng những phương pháp tu khổ hạnh, gần như là tra tấn, đưa con người đến những giới hạn của cơ thể. Tín đồ phải vượt qua những giới hạn đó để đạt đến những mức khác nhau của sự giác ngộ.) Cái chết bị che đậy để bảo vệ thanh danh cho Aum. Vì một sứ mệnh cao hơn của Aum, Asahara và những lãnh đạo cấp cao của Aum lại quyết định giết một tín đồ khác, để bí mật về cái chết thứ nhất không lộ ra. Dần dần, Aum đi theo con đường bạo lực và khủng bố để loại bỏ tất cả những chướng ngại ngăn trở sứ mệnh tôn giáo và mục tiêu thay đổi thế giới trở thành một nơi tốt hơn của Aum. Và cuối cùng sarin được những nhà khoa học ưu tú nhất của Bộ Khoa học và Công nghệ điều chế ra để chứng minh và đẩy nhanh hơn đến Ngày Phán xử Cuối cùng sẽ huỷ diệt để từ đó Aum xây dựng lại tất cả theo lời tiên tri của Asahara. Toàn bộ câu chuyện nghe như một kịch bản rẻ tiền của một bộ phim rẻ tiền. Vậy mà bấy nhiêu tín đồ đã nhất nhất làm theo. Murakami lý giải, họ tuân theo không phải là vì đó là một kịch bản hay mà vì bản thân việc được nghe theo – cảm giác bình yên khi trao tất cả quyền quyết định cùng tất cả những bất định của họ cho một người ở trên. Chỉ cần nhất nhất đi theo con đường đó, họ được hứa hẹn cứu rỗi. Họ đánh mất bản thể, đánh mất sự tự do, vì họ MUỐN như vậy. Câu chuyện của Aum làm tôi nhớ đến lý thuyết trốn khỏi tự do (escape from freedom) của Erich Fromm. Fromm sử dụng câu chuyện về Adam và Eva để nói về sự tự do của con người. Khi ăn quả từ Cây Tri Thức và có lý trí, họ vươn khỏi bóng tối mù mờ bản năng của thế giới động vật, họ của không còn là một phần của tự nhiên nữa. Họ trở thành con người, với tất cả ý thức về sự hữu hạn và sự bất lực, nhỏ bé của mình trước tự nhiên. Tự nhiên là lòng mẹ ấm áp mà họ đã không còn đường trở về. Cùng với sự tự do để hành động độc lập theo lý trí của mình, con người luôn luôn cảm thấy nỗi đau chia cách. Con người hiểu rằng họ chỉ là một thực thể bất toàn, bất định và cô đơn giữa thế giới.Để chạy trốn, họ tìm cách rũ bỏ sự tự do của mình. Trong Aum, các tín đồ quy phục ý chí tối cao của một giáo chủ tuyệt đối để bỏ đi sự cô đơn và bất định của mình.Vẫn là ý tưởng muôn thuở, con người là mục đích tự thân. Không được hy sinh con người nhân danh bất kì một điều gì cả. Tất cả mọi điều xấu xa trên thế giới này đều sinh ra vì sự nhân danh. Vì bất kì điều tốt đẹp nào. Không được nhân danh Thánh Allah, không được nhân danh Chúa Jesus, không được nhân danh Đức Phật, không được nhân danh toàn thể loài người, không nhân danh công lý, không nhân danh bình đẳng- bác ái. Mục đích tối thượng sẽ làm người ta hy sinh chính con người. Không được biến con người thành phương tiện, vì con người là mục đích tự thân.***Tôi thích đọc Murakami, vì sau khi được dẫn đi sâu thật sâu vào tất cả những tầng tâm thức đen tối đó, tôi lại được dẫn lên, và được chỉ cho thấy, kia là ánh sáng, đây là cuộc sống cứ mới hoài, đi vào cuộc sống đi. Bởi thế, Ngầm làm tôi sợ vì chỉ cho tôi thấy con người dễ bị lừa mị và thoát khỏi vòng kiểm soát của lý trí biết bao. Ngầm cảnh báo về cái ác, nhưng lại chỉ ra rằng không có cái ác tuyệt đối, mà chính cái ác có thể sinh ra từ khát vọng lương thiện. Kết luận cuối cùng về những người tham gia Aum, Murakami nói “những người gia nhập các giáo phái đều không phải là người dị thường, họ không có điểm gì thiệt thòi, họ không lệch lạc…Có thể họ đã nghĩ về mọi chuyện hơi quá nghiêm túc một chút. Có thể trong nội tâm họ có nỗi đau nào đó họ cứ mang theo. Họ không giỏi bày tỏ cảm xúc của mình cho người khác và có phần nào đó bất an. Họ không thể tìm ra cách thích hợp để tự diễn đạt bản thân, và cứ đắn đo qua lại giữa cảm giác kiêu hãnh và cảm giác mình thiếu năng lực. Tôi rất có thể là như thế. Và cả bạn nữa.”Đọc xong Ngầm, tôi thấy mình như vừa đi qua những cơn lốc xoáy của những bình nguyên và cánh đồng cuộc sống. Cảm xúc của tôi mạnh đến mức không thể gom những suy nghĩ và cảm xúc của mình thành điều gì khả dĩ đọc được sau đó. Mãi sau 2 tháng, tôi mới mở review này ra để viết lại. Đọc xong Ngầm, tôi thấy mình cần ánh sáng kinh khủng. Tôi như vừa trở lại từ thế giới bên trong, vẫn còn lơ mơ. Không cần chi ánh sáng của tri thức hay hiểu biết, mà chỉ là ánh nắng ấm của cuộc sống hằng ngày thôi. Thật ra, đôi khi phải trèo xuống sâu trong những suy nghĩ nặng nề của đầu mình, để cảm thấy rõ khao khát ánh sáng đó hơn. Chẳng cần lo gì, vì chỉ cần còn nguyên nỗi khát thèm sống lại này thì sự sống đâu được mệt mỏi và hẹp hòi quá lâu.

  • Aryn
    2019-03-29 02:11

    On March 20, 1995 a Japanese religious cult, called Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas onto five subway trains during the morning rush hour. Cult members entered trains near the front with two or three newspaper-wrapped packets of sarin, piercing the packets with sharpened umbrellas the members were able to get off the train with minimal injury due to the gas.In Japan, this book was published as two: the first being interviews with sarin survivors that had been affected in some way, even just having their day disrupted; the second being interviews with members and ex-members of Aum that agreed to be interviewed. The first part of the book definitely deserves five stars. The second part of the book I found less intriguing, which surprised me. Maybe it's the way that the Aum talk about enlightenment that I really just had trouble with because it's so foreign to my western thought processes.My lack of knowledge of this attack is pretty disgusting. But the thing is, that even spell check didn't recognize "sarin." Leads me to believe it's probably not just me that doesn't know enough about the attack. Hell, I didn't even know what sarin was or did until the last interviews in the first part of this book which were interviews with doctors who treated the sarin. The only thing I really knew about sarin, I learned from the introduction to the book, in a foot note.Sarin is a nerve gas invented by German scientists in the 1930s as part of Adolf Hitler's preparations for World War II. During the 1980s it was used to lethal effects by Iraq, both in the war against Iran and against the Kurds. Twenty-six times as deadly as cyanide gas, a drop of sarin the size of a pinhead is sufficient to kill a person.In the interview with the doctors, the most helpful part was this:If you want to move a suckle the nerve endings send out an order to the muscle cells in the form of the chemical, acetylcholine. It's the messenger. When the muscle receives that they move, they contract. After the contraction, the enzyme cholinestrerase serves to neutralize the message sent by the acetylcholine, which prepares for the next action. Over and over again.However when the cholinestrerase runs out, the acetylcholine message remains active and the muscle stays contracted. [...] when they stay contracted we get paralysis.As I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed the first half of this book quite a bit more than the second half. What was really striking was how surreal the event felt to the people who were involved. None of them really seemed to know what was going on or how to handle it. Even if they did hear that it might be sarin gas, the the overwhelming response seemed to be: "well, it couldn't be me, better be off or else I'll be late for work!"My favorite interviews were the ones with Tatsuo and Shizuko Akashi. Shizuko was on Marunouchi Line, towards Ogikubo. She was the one most affected by sarin that agreed to be interviewed for Murakami's book. She lost much of her memory, ability to speak and walk. At the time this book was published she was in the hospital doing therapies to attempt to help her regain her life. The two interviews felt, to me, to be the two most emotional, and therefore resonated best with me.

  • Abhinav
    2019-04-04 23:44

    I still remember the first time I came across this book at the local used-book store. I was about to check out with my purchases when I noticed a book with Murakami written on its spine behind the woman at the counter, so I asked her for it & quickly looked up the book on Goodreads. But I wasn't really keen on non-fiction back then, someone on my friends' list had given it a one-star rating & I being short on cash conspired together & I didn't buy it. Bad judgement on my part, now that I think about it."Underground" is partly an interviewee memoir & partly a work of investigative journalism, narrated in Rashomon-style from the viewpoints of people affected in the Tokyo Subway Gas Attack. At the very start, Murakami makes it clear that the biggest motivation behind writing this book was to search for the answer to the one question that the media reports never really bothered to find out - "What actually happened in the subway on March 20, 1995?"Despite Murakami acknowledging that he isn't a great verbal communicator, he does well to steer clear of stating his own involvement in the interviews & mentions himself as little as possible, limiting his inputs to a few occasional clarifications or comments & showing the sensitivity required to handle such a delicate matter. This helps the victim to really open up during the interview, speaking at length about themselves (including digressions at times) & recounting their horrific experiences of that fateful Monday. Even though it feels a tad repetitive, what engages the reader is the insight these experiences provide into how the Japanese mindset works. Murakami does correctly point out that though these accounts of victims are after all just human memories & not exactly hard facts, they often prove more enlightening than consistency probably ever would.The book, when originally published, included only the accounts of the victims. Murakami, however, paid heed to some sections of his readership who suggested that he also should've interviewed some members of Aum Shinrikyo - the religious cult who perpetrated the attack - to give a glimpse of both sides of the story. Though he appears a bit prejudiced & even harsh at times (my observation entirely) towards the members of Aum (all of them here had no hand in the gas attack), it probably stems from the amount of damage & hurt he'd experienced first-hand while interacting with the victims before. But then, Murakami is not a professional journalist & he is more likely to express himself than any stoic journo would."Underground" by Haruki Murakami is a riveting work of investigative reportage & certainly succeeds in achieving what it sets out to do - try to give an unbiased account of both sides of the Tokyo Gas Attack & explore where the Japanese as a responsible society is going off the rails. Highly recommended.

  • Cărăşălu
    2019-03-31 08:04

    This a collection of interviews with the victims of the Tokyo subway gas attack, in the first part, and with some (ex)members of the cult that did carry out the attack. Although I did find the latter part more interesting, the first one is very revealing as well. Murakami sets out to show how the event was felt by those directly involved in it. What exactly happened that very morning? What did people do? Who reacted how? And the answers are very surprising, at times unbelievable. One of the most recurrent themes is that people unaware of what had happened, but affected by the gas, were still trying to get to work. Almost blinded by the sarin, barely walking, they simply had to get to work. Some fainted on the way, others reached their workplaces, but were then sent to hospitals. Also, it is fascinating the way they tried to explain their state through the knowledge they had at hand: some though it was because of a recent flu, or because some medicine, or because a diet and so on. Very few did make a connection between the weird smell in the subway and their condition. In the second part, Murakami manages to find some members of Aum, the cult that carried out the attack, some of them having left Aum and others still sticking with it. The things they say, in a certain way, seem even more incredible than those in the first part. The way they accepted to do so many things, the way obedience and work for the cult made them happy, the effects of yoga training, their relationship with their Selves and with the Master, the practical application of a very distorted form of Buddhism, are so many thought-provoking things. Besides the inner workings of a sect, these interviews show major problems and faults in the outside society.All in all, a very valuable documents, especially from a sociological and psychological point of view, but worth reading for anyone interested in understanding what the hell modernity is doing to people.

  • Mobyskine
    2019-04-08 00:08

    Two parts-- heart-wrenching and tragic, harrowing and too emotional, the insight views from both affected victims/families and cult members, past and present. I love reading part one though quite distressing and redundant but reading on how people felt about the tragedy was an eye-opener. I like that the interviews not covered only about the tragedy but as well as the victims personal life, their relationship, work life and the after effect. In part two I see a different views from the cult members-- their opinions on the attack and what motivate them to join the cult, their life changing and how they think about the cult itself. Very interesting. Murakami's written essay "Blind Nightmare" was my favorite. Love the interviews style-- respondent own perspectives and they talked about anything they want to talk about. No domination or just-answer-the-question sort of. Very genuine.Not a fan of non-fiction but this one is absolutely great.

  • Cinnamon
    2019-04-04 02:57

    พอไม่ใช่นิยายก็ใช้เวลาอ่านนานโข เดือนครึ่งเชียวกว่าจะจบ นับถือในความทุ่มเทของเฮียและทีมงานในการรวบรวมข้อมูลและสัมภาษณ์ผู้ประสบภัยในเหตุการณ์ปล่อยแก๊สซารินในรถไฟใต้ดินเมื่อครั้งนั้นมาก ๆ ด้วยความที่เป็นแนวสารคดีจึงไม่ได้มีความตื่นเต้นระทึกขวัญในแบบนิยาย ความน่าสนใจอยู่ที่เหตุการณ์นั้นเกิดขึ้นจริง มีผู้เสียชีวิต และได้รับบาดเจ็บมากมาย แล้วยังมีผลกระทบสืบเนื่องทั้งในด้านร่างกาย และจิตใจตามมา ทุกคนต่างถ่ายทอดเรื่องราวในวันเกิดเหตุออกมาจากความทรงจำ และมุมมองของตัวเอง อ่านแล้วรู้สึกได้ถึงอารมณ์หลากหลาย ความทุกข์ทนหม่นเศร้า โกรธแค้นชิงชัง งุนงง ฯลฯ คนที่ไม่ได้เจอเหตุการณ์นั้น ก็คงไม่อาจเข้าใจถึงความเจ็บช้ำ หวาดหวั่น และโกรธแค้นของพวกเขาอย่างแท้จริง เพราะความเจ็บปวดที่เกิดขึ้นภายในไม่อาจมองเห็นด้วยตา

  • Stacia
    2019-03-22 01:08

    This is not your typical non-fiction book for various reasons. The largest part of the book includes interviews with survivors of the attack or relatives of those who did not survive. Murakami describes his method of finding the interviewees, convincing them to talk (which would have been a challenge in 1990s Japanese society), meeting with them, & recording their words. I worked for Japanese companies for over ten years (so I worked with many Japanese co-workers) & the survivor sections reflect what I know -- work & duty come first (before the individual), people (individually) & society as a whole are highly regulated, there is a tendency to want to ignore it & move on, etc.... In that respect, some reviews of the book have said all the sections get repetitive... & they do, but I think that just underscores how deeply these behaviors are ingrained across the spectrum of Japanese society.After this section, he includes quite a few pages of his thoughts, titled "Blind Nightmare: Where are We Japanese Going?" I think it's his attempt to wrap his head around what happened (he had been living out of the country for many years before the sarin attack & had just recently returned to Japan), the way everyone handled the situation, to try to guess what might lead people to joining cults that eventually lead them into killing others.The end of the book includes some interviews with Aum Shinrikyo members (group who released the sarin gas on the subways). When he first released the book, it had only the side of the survivors. Many panned it as not being real non-fiction, not showing both sides, & so on. That was never his intent in the first place (to provide multiple viewpoints; he was interested only in the survivors & how the attack affected them as it happened & in the longer term); he wanted to balance out what he felt had been skewed reporting on the victims of the attacks. Later, he wondered how fair the reporting on the Aum members had been & embarked on a similar endeavor to interview some of them. His methods were slightly different & there are fewer people interviewed, but it was interesting to read their accounts of how distanced from 'normal' society they felt which, to a large part, led to them joining the Aum group.He ends with some final comments of his own, urging Japanese society (and, really, the world at large) to get to the root causes of what compel people join cults & work to prevent the root causes."... However, we need to realize that most of the people who join cults are not abnormal; they're not disadvantaged; they're not eccentrics. They are the people who live average lives (and maybe from the outside, more than average lives), who live in my neighborhood. And in yours.Maybe they think about things a little too seriously. Perhaps there's some pain they're carrying around inside. They're not good at making their feelings known to others and are somewhat troubled. They can't find a suitable means to express themselves, and bounce back and forth between feelings of pride and inadequacy. That might very well be me. It might be you."Lots of food for thought here, especially if you consider how out of the norm an attack like this was in Japanese society at the time. A completely shocking & unexpected act. An era that was pre-FB, pre-Twitter. An era when terrorism & attacks on the random public were not as 'normal' as they seem to be today. Murakami gathered the info & gives it to you with the merest touches of his own opinions or commentary. He's not a reporter, nor a psychologist; he's just a novelist trying to unravel the narrative behind a shocking incident.An interesting & thought-provoking work. I'm thankful for the voices of all who spoke out (because I know it was very against the nature of a typical Japanese citizen to do so at the time) & for Haruki Murakami for seeking out these voices. A work I am very glad to have read. In the longer term, I do think Murakami has mulled over these people, these groups... leading him to include facets of what he uncovered in some of his subsequent fiction works, including 1Q84.

  • Stephen
    2019-04-17 03:03

    This is really 2 books - one of interviews with victims of the Tokyo sarin bombing and the other, interviews with ex-members of the cult behind it. The first was pretty compelling reading and really gets into the personalities of the victims, the effect it had on them and what it was like to be there. The second half, I found quite heavy going, though. Miracle that more people weren't killed and that having taken place so many years ago, it hasn't happened again. Never did like going on undergrounds and after reading this, you might not fancy travelling on them again !

  • Mag
    2019-04-02 08:03

    I read it to get a better understanding of 1Q84. I wouldn’t say it’s essential reading for it, but it's very helpful to understanding the book’s themes and characters. Underground is a non-fiction account of Aum Shinrikyo’s sarin gas terrorist attack in the Tokyo subway in March, 1995. Aum Shinrikyo was a doomsday cult and the attack happened to fulfil its leader’s prophecy that a gas attack in Tokyo was to start the Third World War and lead to Armageddon. The attack killed 13 people (the last one died in 2008) and left hundreds either disabled or with permanent health problems. It also caused enormous psychological damage overall. There are different editions of Underground, but mine (Kindle edition) consists of three parts- Part 1- interviews with the victims of the attack, Part 2- interviews with the Aum cult members- none of them with the perpetrators, and Part 3- a book review- an essay by Murakami prompted by the publication of the book written by one of the cult member responsible for the release of the gas and serving the life sentence at the time.Even though mostly unedited interviews make up most of the book, there are some very enlightening remarks by Murakami in between the parts and in the final essay; enlightening in the sense of understanding the background for 1Q84 since the cult from 1Q84 bears an uncanny resemblance to Aum Shinrikyo in many respects. It's all there from the intellectual makeup of the people in it, through the split of the cult into two groups down to the presence of the incinerator on the cult's grounds (which was used to burn the body of at least one of the victims). What comes through Murakami’s comments are the dangers of a society of non-engagement and of giving into beliefs, especially the ones that condone cruelty.Quite interesting. No wonder people have been reading it voraciously in Japan, and no wonder it is disguised into supernatural in 1Q84. As for the book format, it was powerful in some respects and weak in others. It conveyed the human factor very well, but didn’t provide enough systematized information on the cult for me. I suppose the format is unique and nothing similar has been written on that topic. What came out of it was not only the portrayal of the attack and the psychology of the cult but also the portrayal of the Japanese people, their daily lives, beliefs, habits and work ethics. The Kindle edition had some annoying language errors, yet overall I would definitely recommend it.

  • Chelsea Szendi
    2019-03-26 06:04

    This book proves two things I've long suspected about Murakami Haruki. One is that he'd be a lot more interesting if he'd deny his own ego every once in a while, and the second is that he is not very skilled at analysis. This book of Murakami's is nonfiction and almost entirely the compiled testimonies of survivors of the March 20, 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway.At first the experiment is absolutely absorbing. In his prologue, Murakami promises to explore the kind of "double victimization" that often occurs in Japanese society, when victims of circumstances beyond their control are further victimized by colleagues and neighbors because their misfortune makes them different. I can think of many examples beyond the Aum attack - from hibakusha to Minamata. The short chapters themselves, however, are mostly descriptions of the victims' movements on March 20, or their symptoms.The subtitle of the book is "The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche." It's kind of cringe-worthy to throw out that term - the Japanese psyche - but I began to wish there was more synthesis of people's stories and analyses of patterns. Ironically, by the time I reached the kind of postscript inclusion of narratives offered by Aum Shinrikyo participants I felt that I understood the social alienation many of them described; so many of the victims' stories seemed to reveal a kind of automaton existence in an enormous and estranging city.

  • Miguel Lugo
    2019-03-21 05:57

    Un libro salvaje y caotico que nos muestra a una sociedad que nos sorprende cada que conocemos algo nuevo de esta.Las entrevistas pueden llegar a ser repetitivas ya que todos cuentan lo que sucedió pero Murakami indaga mas en el interior de la personas afectada y en su vida cotidiana, las entrevistas son amenas y esto nos hace ponernos en el lugar del entrevistado.Murakami adentra al atentado con un epilogo y nos presenta las entrevistas que fueron organizadas conforme las lineas del metro afectadas. Murakami fue severamente criticado ya que el libro solo se centraba en los afectados y solo veíamos una cara de la moneda y para ello, Murakami entrevistó a adeptos de la secta AUM, me fue de buen gusto conocer lo que era AUM y como este caos se fue formando y como sucedía el lavado de cerebro.Un libro muy importante.

  • Maria
    2019-04-04 01:06

    Confession: I'm currently obsessed with Haruki Murakami. Am I an aging hipster? Yes, probably.Does that negate the fact that he's a magician that rewires your brain? No.Murakami's nonfiction over fiction? I prefer his novels. I'm a Sputnik Sweetheart, Norwegian Wood, Colorless Tsukuru type of girl.Did you enjoy Underground? Yes! Totally. I appreciated his empathy and story telling through fact. BUT I feel like I'm going to be that person who will read the complete works of Murakami so I can feel the whole spectrum of human emotions. Do you feel the novels are better/ more important than the nonfiction.? Yeah, I do. Unless it's important to you to read everything this genius has put his hand to; I'd stick with the novels. Is your current screensaver May Kasahara? Yes, yes it is.

  • Pio
    2019-03-28 07:50

    Một quyển sách rất bổ ích, nhưng mà tui hông thích bàn luận tôn giáo và những khái niệm trừu tượng trong này. Thấy nó rắc rối tợn :(

  • Mizuki
    2019-03-27 03:07

    I should re-read this book someday.

  • mrs rin
    2019-04-01 01:14

    Σε κάθε κεφάλαιο του βιβλίου μιλάει ένας μάρτυρας για την εμπειρία που είχε κατά την τρομοκρατική επίθεση στο μετρό του Τόκιο.Το βιβλίο πηγαίνει κάπως έτσι: Μάρτυρας 1: Βοήθησα τον Κυρ-Παντελή που είχε πέσει και δε μπορούσε να βγει από το μετρό.Μάρτυρας 2: Βοήθησα τον Μάρτυρα 1 που βοηθούσε τον Κυρ-Παντελή που είχε πέσει και δε μπορούσε να βγει από το μετρό.Μάρτυρας 3: Κοιτούσα τον Μάρτυρα 1 και τον Μάρτυρα 2 που βοηθούσαν τον Κυρ-Παντελή που είχε πέσει και δε μπορούσε να βγει από το μετρό.Μάρτυρας 4: Κοιτούσα τον Μάρτυρα 3 που κοιτούσε τον Μάρτυρα 1 και τον Μάρτυρα 2 που βοηθούσαν τον Κυρ-Παντελή που είχε πέσει και δε μπορούσε να βγει από το μετρό.

  • Jee Koh
    2019-04-09 05:46

    I'm planning to visit Japan in August and so when I found Haruki Murakami's work of journalism Underground at Kramerbooks in D.C., I bought it immediately, for who can resist a book subtitled "The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche"? The first, and bigger, part of the book consists of interviews with the victims of the gas attacks, and the family of those who died. These interviews are ordered according to the subway lines on which the Aum attack on March 20, 1995, a Monday, took place. Dissatisfied with the presentation by the Japanese media of a collective image of "the innocent Japanese sufferer," Murakami wanted to discover and document the actual people behind the label of victims, to recognize that each person had, as he puts it, "a face, a life, a family, hopes and fears, contradictions and dilemmas." Most interesting, and moving, are the interviews of the subway staff who had to respond to the emergency. Their interviews are suffused with pain, guilt, horror, self-justification, and, above all, bewilderment over unanswerable what-if questions.Part Two of the book consists of interviews with former and present members of the Aum sect, though not with the attackers who were imprisoned or still on trial at the writing of the book. Most members interviewed have struggled with the meaning and purpose of life since young, while feeling alienated from the conformism and competition that they saw around them. They report their strong sense of relief when they became a renunciate and pledged themselves to follow Asahara, the leader of the sect, unconditionally. Even after the gas attack, they hold on to the idea that there is some good in the sect's teaching, and some try to locate a point in time when the organization went wrong. Intriguing detail, from Akio Namimura's interview: when the police took him in for questioning, for being an Aum member, they asked him to trample on a photo of Shoko Asahara to prove that he had renounced his faith, "like it was in the Edo period when they made the Japanese Christians renounce their faith by stepping on a drawing of Jesus," Namimura comments. In an essay that concludes Part One, Murakami reflects on what actually happened in the Tokyo Subway on that fateful day. Thinking about how Aum members actively sought to be controlled by Asahara, he wrote some perspicacious remarks about narrative:If you lose your ego, you lose the thread of that narrative you call your Self. Humans, however, can't live very long without some sense of a continuing story. Such stories go beyond the limited rational system (or the systematic rationality) with which you surround yourself; they are crucial keys to sharing time-experience with others. Now a narrative is a story, not logic, not ethics, nor philosophy. It is a dream you keep having, whether you realize it or not. Just as surely as you breathe, you go on ceaselessly dreaming your story. And in these stories you wear two faces. You are simultaneously subject and object. You are the whole and you are a part. You are real and you are shadow. "Storyteller" and at the same time "character." It is through such multilayering of roles in our stories that we heal the loneliness of being an isolated individual in the world.Aum members, however, gave up the complications and confusions of their own narrative and accepted the simplified, junky, and cobbled-together narrative put out by Asahara. Murakami, however, turns the knife further and deeper, by asking the reader:Haven't you offered up some part of your Self to someone (or something), and had taken on a "narrative" in return? Haven't we entrusted some part of our personality to some greater System or Order? And if so, has not that System at some stage demanded of us some kind of "insanity"? Is the narrative you now possess really and truly your own? Are your dreams really your own dreams? Might not they be someone else's vision that could sooner or later turn into nightmare?