NYT on Murakami’s “Underground.”
After the attack on Tokyo’s subway system, which killed 12 and injured about 5,500, he spent a full year interviewing the 62 victims who consented to talk to him at length, producing “Underground” (Vintage International Edition, 2001), a Studs Terkel-influenced work that hauntingly chronicles their experiences on the day of the attack and in the months of slow and typically incomplete recovery that followed.
…anyone seeking to understand what could drive people to acts of such wanton destruction will find the accounts of the Aum members even more illuminating, all the more so since the hijackers of the airplanes that smashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11 disappeared without leaving behind any real testament.
What first strikes a reader is the banality of the evildoers. Aum’s members are ordinary people in almost every sense of the word, from dropouts with few prospects in search of some answers in life to highly educated professionals grown tired of the rat race.
… “What I write are stories in which the hero is looking for the right way in this world of chaos,” he said. “That is my theme. At the same time I think there is another world that is underground. You can access this inner world in your mind. Most protagonists in my books live in both worlds ≈E this realistic world and the underground world.
“If you are trained you can find the passage and come and go between the two worlds. It is easy to find an entrance into this closed circuit, but it is not easy to find an exit. Many gurus offer an entry into the circuit for free. But they don’t offer a way out, because they want to keep followers trapped. Those people can be soldiers when they are ordered to be. I think that is very much like what happened with those people who flew the planes into those buildings.”