Cult mentality at its worst. An appendix to Cults.
366 pages, ★★★★
In March of 1995, agents of a Japanese religious cult attacked the Tokyo subway system with sarin, a gas twenty-six times as deadly as cyanide. Attempting to discover why, Murakami conducted hundreds of interviews with the people involved, from the survivors to the perpetrators to the relatives of those who died, and Underground is their story in their own voices. Concerned with the fundamental issues that led to the attack as well as these personal accounts, Underground is a document of what happened in Tokyo as well as a warning of what could happen anywhere. This is an enthralling and unique work of nonfiction that is timely and vital and as wonderfully executed as Murakami’s brilliant novels.
Underground is divided into two parts. The first, larger part focusses on the victims of the attack and their families. Author Murakami does this because he feels the media focussed too much on the perpetrators, and neglected coverage of the victims.
The second part consists of interviews with cult leaders. His conversations make the fictional cult/gang in 1Q84 very believable.
Translator’s footnotes describe the fate of the attackers throughout Underground. Some of the attackers were sentenced to hard labour, some received the death penalty, and a small number were still awaiting trial.
The line between ‘cults’ and ‘charismatic groups’ is a fine one. Arguably, ‘cults’ are just the products of ‘charismatic groups’ gone awry. They exist in every country and need to be kept in check. This book made me wonder: what if Scientology, with all its resources and influence, were to turn violent?
I recommend Underground for anyone interested in cults, and for all die-hard fans of Haruki Murakami. ★★★★
- Review: Underground by Haruki Murakami (alexinleeds.com)
- Members of Aum Shinrikyo religious cult sects reach record high (japandailypress.com)
- Claimed By The Cult: A Mother’s Fight To Rescue Her Son-Author Recounts Experience Saving Her Son From A Religious Cult (paramuspost.com)
- Book: After Dark (jameskennedymonash.wordpress.com)
- Murakami Haruki’s IQ84 (themodernmanuscript.wordpress.com)