Underground

200px-Underground_book_murakami

A few people caught the INKlings reference in the last post (okay, so I actually used the word in the subject, hardly a “reference” but an in your face kind of thing).

I first heard of Japanese author Haruki Murakami from my friend Kei, he had sent me an email in which he mentioned a story called “TV People” by Mr. Murakami. Further emails mentioned “Kafka on the Shore,” “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” and others.

I’ve read as many of his stories as I can, and fell in love with “Wind-up Bird” and started calling myself a Murakami fan. Here lately I’ve decided to re-read all of my favorite Murakami stories, and the ones I’ve not read, in anticipation of “1Q84” his latest offering, though, it’ll be about 2-3 years before it’s available in English translation.

The last Murakami book I read was Underground. It’s a non-fiction book.

In 1995 several members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult left bags of sarin gas in a few of the Tokyo subway lines. Many people were injured, several died as a result of poisoning.

About a year after the attack, Mr. Murakami set out to interview as many of the victims as he could. He later decided that, to get a more rounded response, it would be a good idea to interview a few doctors and members of Aum as well.

The resulting book is at once a relic of a horrific time, and at the same time, a snapshot of how Japanese life is, and was, during the late 90s.

My favorite interviews in the book are the first four, as they all feature the same four people, telling their story from their perspective. When you’re done reading their stories, you realize, they each told the same story, and in that sameness, you get a cyclic feeling of completeness.

Mr. Murakami’s stories are all what I would call “flipping insane” but, in this, a true story, you read it and think “there’s no way this could be true” but check the BBC archives, check Wikipedia, check wherever, and you see that it’s true.

This really happened.

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