Shaz S's Reviews > Underground

Underground by Haruki Murakami
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Jan 28, 10

bookshelves: 2010

I just finished reading Underground by Haruki Murakami and I'm so glad that I bought the complete edition because it’s the second part of the book that has left me more fulfilled. The book is a collection of interviews with the victims of the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo Subway system by members of Aum Shinrikyo (It is a doomsday cult with nihilist outlook, also incorporating elements of Yoga, Buddhism, Freemasonry and Nostradamus' prophecies). I have read a book called "The cult at the end of the world" by David Kaplan, I think in late 2000, when I was in my self-destructive, fed-up with grunge, joining the sheeple part of my life. I was majorly into reading about cults back then, even before Dan Brown made it fashionable. It is a detailed, although biased, study of Aum Shinrikyo and what led up to the Sarin gas attacks. It focused more on the "Shoko Ashara is a loony mass murderer" part than the actual teachings/principles of the cult.

The second part of Underground comprises of interviews with current and former members of the cult. It shows these people in a new light, as one of us rather than as one of “them”. I am not saying that what Aum did was right or even forgivable, but when you look at the individual stories of the cult members you realize they are just ordinary people who just wanted an easier ticket to salvation but were misguided by an egomaniac who promised them Neverland.

Most of Aum's members were well educated, intelligent and highly respected members of the society who almost had everything. But there is always this feeling like something is missing, something isn’t right about living this way. You are always an Outsider who cannot cope with the soullessness of the mainstream society. And I can relate to that on some levels. I guess everyone has his/her dark periods, but some people are just not meant for this era. After so many years of trying I know that I'll never fit in and it hurts to feel that way every single day. If I had the courage I'd just drop everything I have up in the air in the moment and just leave, but to do that you need ovaries of steel. That's why I admire the people who actually severed all those ties and took the next step, in the same way I admire Chris McCandless, Henry Miller and Kurt Cobain.

When the English media went ninja on Aum and created a monster out of everything and everyone related to the cult, Murakami tries to de-demonize the ordinary person who was caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. He recognizes people just the way they are, frail humans; who were just in it for the Nirvana; and had to bear the brunt of a crazed leadership. No religion is bad; it’s the people who follow it.
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