On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

Murakami mesmerizes with his fiction, but his nonfiction is not to be missed

Share story

'Underground' by Haruki Murakami
'Underground' by Haruki Murakami
Courtesy of publisher

Every week, The Thread checks in with booksellers around the country about their favorite books of the moment. This week, we spoke with Lucas Mcguffie from the Montclair Book Center in Montclair, N.J.

Haruki Murakami is perhaps best known for his novels: "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle," "Norwegian Wood," "1Q84."

But bookseller Lucas Mcguffie highly recommends a book of nonfiction Murakami published in the late 90s. It's a mix of "literature and journalism," he said, called "Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche."

The book examines the aftermath of a 1995 Japanese terrorist attack, when members of the cult Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway during rush hour.

After the attack, Mcguffie said, the Japanese media "did what our media would do with that, which is focus on the chaos ... So [Murakami] interviewed a whole bunch of the victims and did these really granular, specific interviews about their experience. Through the whole book you end up getting this painting of the whole event from a million different viewpoints."

"One interview is about a woman who got such bad nerve damage she's still in the hospital, she's still being taken care of by her brother, and it doesn't look like she's going to be back to how she was before — whereas many people in this book were ashamed to be interviewed saying they weren't affected enough. The interesting part is the variety of people affected."

About a year after the book was published in Japan, Mcguffie said, Murakami interviewed some people who belonged to Aum Shinrikyo about the attack. Those interviews make up the last third of the American translation of "Underground."

"If you've read '1Q84,' which is one of his best-known novels in America, it clearly inspired a bunch of that."

Underground Underground