The Memory Police

The Memory Police

Book - 2019
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"A deft and dark Orwellian novel about the terrors of state surveillance, from the acclaimed author of The Housekeeper and the Professor On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, things are disappearing. First, animals and flowers. Then objects--ribbons,bells, photographs. Then, body parts. Most of the island's inhabitants fail to notice these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the mysterious 'memory police,' who are committed to ensuring that the disappeared remain forgotten. When a young novelist realizes that more than her career is in danger, she hides her editor beneath her floorboards, and together, as fear and loss close in around them, they cling to literature as the last way of preserving the past. Part allegory, part literary thriller, The Memory Police is a stunning new work from one of the most exciting contemporary authors writing in any language"--
Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, ♭2019.
ISBN: 9781101870600
Characteristics: 274 pages ;,22 cm.
Additional Contributors: Snyder, Stephen 1957-- Translator


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Mar 11, 2021

While The Memory Police is a very interesting dystopic take, the writing style is rather distant/removed and the story feels like it moves too slowly and too quickly at the same time. Definitely suggest giving this novel a once-over - it would be very interesting to discuss as part of a book club - but I don't think it requires a second glance.

JCLAMYK Feb 25, 2021

A melancholic dystopian tale. I loved it as it isn’t your normal dystopian society.

SFPL_danielay Jan 29, 2021

An isolated island community has to deal with the disappearance of words in this thought-provoking novel. How does a community deal with these losses, e.g. a beautiful rose garden that has to be destroyed once the word "rose" disappears, as well as with the few people who are able to remember the lost things?

Jan 26, 2021

This novel was otherworldly and the premise was interesting. I found the writing (and perhaps this is more of a translation issue) to be cringeworthy in spots and I was very disgruntled with the lack of clarity on how the island came to be, it left a sour taste for the book for me.

Oct 12, 2020

I'm sad to say that overall I didn't enjoy this dystopian novel very much. After reading and really liking Ogawa's The Housekeeper and the Professor (written almost 10 years after The Memory Police) I was eager to pick up another of her books again centered around the topic of memory. The premise sounded intriguing and it started out well, but the more I read the less satisfied I felt. It's a quiet, melancholy story and it was some beautiful passages, but it just left too many questions unanswered which kind of makes me question the whole point of the story. I also don’t think that the 'story in the story' element added much to the whole experience apart from reinforcing the main idea of quiet disappearance. Some plot bits also felt I bit contradicting to me (like how she managed to remember some words of disappeared things while others didn't ring any bells) and the overwhelming passivity to the point of indifference of the people (despite the safe houses and the fact some of them tried to hide and escape).
All in all, this one missed the mark for me a bit although I can see why some people liked it so much just as a fable and allegory of memory and loss.

Sep 04, 2020

'Memory Police' feels perfect for the pandemic state of mind. The locked down lives people are leading, following government recommendations, make the premise of disappearances and the Memory Police not so far from reality.

Apr 12, 2020

A fable, an allegory.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Mar 25, 2020

The pace is slow and dreamy...this magically real novel made me think and will stick with me for a while.

Jan 12, 2020

An Orwellian novel of state surveillance, but with some interesting twists.

Dec 03, 2019

Could not get into this book at all.
First it was written in 1994 when typewriters still ruled, but not translated until 2019, so right off the bat it feels dated.
The writing style is very detached from the events and characters. The closest a character gets to a name is R, the editor of the novelist protagonist-narrator of the story.
The characters are very passive - 仕方がない (shikataganai - it can't be helped/nothing can be done/it’s inevitable) to the point where they even help in the physical destruction of items that are removed from memory.
And, speaking of that, I couldn’t buy the premise. Why are memories being erased - what is the point? How does memory erasure work - why do some physical items that are erased from memory, like novels, need to be burned, while others, like limbs, just physically disappear on their own? And, thinking about, what's the the difference between a novel and a novella - do the novellas stick around after the novels are all gone?
What is it with some people having a physical anomaly so they don’t forget and need to be eliminated by the memory police? Is this element introduced to add some menace to a situation that everyone else just accepts?
Is this erasure of memory happening all over the world or just on the island? Does no one telephone anyone off island?
Why would the protagonist hide R when there is already an organization doing that?
How could R’s hiding space, a room in a 6’ high cheater floor, not be obvious from the outside?
Why is the voice of the narrator the only thing left after the rest of her body has disappeared, while it’s only the voice of the woman in the novel with in the novel that is the only thing taken (in what has to be the worst case of student-teacher sexual exploitation ever)?
Is this story supposed to be a metaphor for Japan?
The logic of the story escapes me. Luckily it’s a quick read.

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