Underground Cover


The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche

By Haruki Murakami; Alfred Birnbaum (Translator); J. Philip Gabriel (Translator)

Vintage Books USA, Paperback, 9780375725807, 384pp.

Publication Date: April 10, 2001

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

About the Author
Haruki Murakami is a prolific writer of novels and short stories, including Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which won the prestigious Tanizaki Prize.

Birnbaum is a writer and editor. Since 1992 and further studies on Southeast Asian history at SOAS and the University of Tokyo's Institute for Asian Architecture.

Gabriel received his doctorate in East Asian literature from Cornell University and is associate professor of Japanese literature at the University of Arizona.

Praise For Underground

“Chilling. . . . Murakami weaves a compelling true tale of normal lives faced with abnormal realities.” –Sunday Tribune

“Powerfully observed. . . . A rattling chronicle of violence and terror.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Through Murakami’s sensitive yet relentless questioning, it emerges that the people who joined Aum felt just as adrift in the world as Murakami’s own [fictional] characters do.” –The Guardian