Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Review : Underground by Haruki Murakami

I believe everyone in the modern society wears a mask. These masks have been worn for such a long time that they have become a part of our facial features. To understand the psyche of a society, one needs to look underneath the masks and the only time the masks come off is during a high pressure situation –a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Murakami attempts the same by interviewing the people who were affected the most by the Tokyo gas attack in 1995.
                                In this book, Murakami has proved that his interviewing skills are top notch. The interviews with the victims are short, precise and very informative but there are around 30 victim accounts which tend to get repetitive at times. After a  certain point, I felt that I was reading a textbook on the symptoms and after effects of sarin gas poisoning. The chapters on the trial proceedings of the AUM cult members were also very dull and monotonous. What surprised me the most about the victims was the robot like attitude of the people during the tragedy. Everyone was in such a hurry to get to work that they did not even bother to drag themselves to the clinic. Imagine a large group of people with burning red eyes, vomiting on the sidewalk  and still walking towards their offices one step at a time(like a scene from a zombie movie).After reading the book, I have a new found respect for the railway officials. Their commitment towards the work really floored me .The train attendants were the one who came in  direct contact with the chemical because without caring for their safety ,they wiped off the liquid with bare hands just so that the train schedule can be on time.
           The research work done for the book is truly commendable. The book contains first-hand accounts of the medical staffs who dealt with the victims, the train attendants, the media people who covered the event and also few members of the AUM cult. Having said that, I also feel that the book seemed more like a research paper –very bland and factual. Nevertheless, it is always fun to read a non-fiction book from an author who is mostly famous for his fictional works and I really appreciate the effort which has gone into the making of this book.

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