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The Memory Police

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  316 ratings  ·  76 reviews
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 i
Hardcover, 274 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by Pantheon Books (first published 1994)
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3.84  · 
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 ·  316 ratings  ·  76 reviews

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Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Memory Police is a hypnotic, gentle novel that begins as a surveillance-state dystopia, and ends as something more existential: a surreal and haunting meditation on our sense of self.

First published in Japan 25 years ago and newly available in English translation, this novel has a timeless feel. The inhabitants of an unnamed island, living under an oppressive regime, experience a form of collective, gradual, amnesia. Upon waking, a seemingly random item - roses, birds, boats - will begin
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read, japan
Who we are strongly depends on our past experiences and the reality that has surrounded us, so what happens if, bit by bit, this reality is made to disappear, and with it the memories ingrained in our hearts? In Yoko Ogawa's highly allegorical novel, the enigmatic "memory police" is controlling the population of a remote island, subjugating the inhabitants by continually forcing them to destroy and forget things like roses, perfume or birds, and all memories attached to them. Every lost memory l ...more
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Combine the trance-like quality of Murakami, the dystopian theme of Orwell (1984), and the claustrophobic atmosphere of John Fowles (The Collector), and you may glean a hint of what’s awaiting you in The Memory Police. But only a hint. Yoko Ogawa had long proven her chops as a hauntingly imaginative writer, a true original, and The Memory Police only increases my admiration of her.

The book takes place on an island. Little by little, things begin to vanish, one by one—"transparent things, fragran
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have no idea how to even begin describing this. The publishers described as Orwellian and I suppose it is very Orwellian in tone, but the plot and world building are very different than 1984.

The premise is this: on an unnamed island, things sometimes “disappear”.  If the islanders don’t rid themselves of the things that disappear, the Memory Police may raid their house to take the items away. Eventually the people forget all about the disappeared-thing (for example, if flowers disappear people
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Examining the central themes of memory and the trauma around loss, this was such a unique narrative.

The novel is set in a dystopian world where items and physical parts of the world are “disappeared” in a very literal sense - as they disappear, so too does the memory of them for people. Well, most people. There are Memory Police that monitor the disappearances and “correct” situations where people do not lose their memories as intended.

It is such a peculiar concept in abstract, particularly as
"You're the same person now that you were when you wrote novels. The only thing that's changed is that the books have been burnt. But even if paper itself disappears, words will remain. It will be all right, you'll see. We haven't lost the stories."

Rating: 3.5 stars

Usually on a 3.5 stars I round it down to 3 stars out of 5, but I'm making an exception for this one because I absolutely couldn't put this book down. Once I'd gotten started, I was reading it at work in between orders, and stood in t
Caleb Masters
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Surreal, eerie, and quietly unsettling, Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police is a thoughtful and compelling portrayal of the horrors of state surveillance and totalitarianism. On an unnamed island, the Memory Police are systematically disappearing things and people; one day roses or photographs or birds or the neighbor boy are gone along with the memories that such things ever existed. The novel is told from the perspective of a young novelist struggling to write her next book as more and more things ...more
Jul 14, 2019 added it
Shelves: read-in-2019
When everything is taken from us, including our bodies, what remains?

That's the basic premise of Ogawa's eerie novel. What begins with an unnamed narrator and her unnamed mother together at a set of drawers, where the mother asks her daughter to choose a drawer to discover something magic (perfume!), we learn that on this unnamed island, The Memory Police can make anything -- or anyone -- disappear whenever they'd like. Roses, birds, and perfume are among the things we learn that are disappeare
V-Hayden Lachance
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(view spoiler)
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s an old proverb that gets quoted a lot, in a lot of different situations. But, as I read Yōko Ogawa’s The Memory Police (beautifully translated by Stephen Snyder), I constantly thought of the frog in the pot of boiling water. This book, narrated by an unnamed novelist, takes place on an equally unnamed island ruled by the eponymous police, who are slowly disappearing things and making sure they are forgotten. The people on the island adapt to their losses. The only ones who buck against t ...more
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I got this book for exchange of a honest review from Edelweiss so first of all, thank you!

This book was definitely an experience. It had that suffocating, paranoia filled mood of classic dystopia such as 1984, but it was also completely unique.

The Memory Police is a Japanese dystopia about a island where things disappear. They don't just disappear, but the memory of said things disappear, as do their meaning. Our nameless protagonist forgets them, but her editor doesn't.

At the first page, I wa
Jun 08, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
PW Starred: Ogawa (Revenge) returns with a dark and ambitious novel exploring memory and power—both individual and institutional—through a dystopian tale about state surveillance. The unnamed female narrator is an orphaned novelist living on an unnamed island that is in the process of disappearing, item by item. The disappearances, of objects such as ribbons, perfume, birds, and calendars, are manifested in a physical purge of the object as well as a psychological absence in the island’s residen ...more
Review to come.
Jack Wrighton
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I took my time with this story, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but the nature of the plot and writing demanded I take it slow. It’s a rather sad, haunting book but exquisitely written (and translated). I will be ruminating over this one for a while!
Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This novel was boring and depressing. It is set on an island where things disappear from existence one by one. When something disappears, like photographs or music boxes, the residents destroy them all and forget entirely about their existence. Those who keep their items or who are able to remember them are taken away by a secret police. The story is set up as if it would develop into some form of conflict between the protagonists and the secret police, but it turns out the secret police are not ...more
Diane Payne
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michele Oliosi
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
The novel left me with an unexpected and deep appreciation of the chance of being alive and a lot of love for the small things in life :)
Very appreciated !
This was originally published in 1994, but given the evaporating freedoms in 2019, it doesn't feel dated at all.

A strange concept to get one's head around, things "disappear" arbitrarily, and "the memory police" come make sure everyone is registering the disappearance and to take those who refuse to forget into custody - probably to disappear them. First it's little things, then they get more extreme and things like books and concepts themselves even begin to disappear. (view spoiler)
My thanks to Random House U.K. Vintage Publishing for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘The Memory Police’ by Yoko Ogawa, in exchange for an honest review. It has been translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder.

This is a strange, rather whimsical, dystopian tale that becomes increasingly surreal as it progresses.

It is set on an unnamed island where various things are disappeared from society. As one character explains these were “Transparent things, fragrant things … fluttery ones, bright ones … w
Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

I previously loved reading a collection of Yoko Ogawa's short stories, Revenge, so enthusiastically grabbed my copy of The Memory Police when it appeared on NetGalley. The novel was first published in Japanese twenty-five years ago and has only just been translated into English - an amazingly good job by the talented Stephen Snyder. The Memory Police is the novel that I had hoped If Cats Disappeared From The World would be - dark, mysterious,
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars, rounded up.
Even several days after finishing this book I'm still not quite sure how I feel about it. It's set on a remote island where things are disappeared. Birds, hats, roses all cease to exist as people wake up and they then have a short time to destroy any they still possess. In time it's like these things never existed at all. There are some people however who retain the ability to remember about them, there are also some who try and keep disappeared things. And it is the job of
On an unnamed island, everyday things are slowly disappeared by the memory police as our narrator, a young novelist and her friend, old man find ways to cope, not only with the disappearances but also with forgetting these things ever existed. Those few, like our narrator’s editor, whose memories remain intact, are taken away by the police, never to be seen again. Only the narrator decides to help her editor.

The Memory Police is a quiet, contemplative dystopia of every day. It may allude to an
Liv (Stories For Coffee)
This book cannot be rated because it surpasses that structure of confinement that a star rating can give. I picked this book up from my library after seeing it in B&N and reading the blurb, “a haunting, Orwellian novel about the terrors of state surveillance.” I was hooked from the beginning. It takes a lot for me to almost finish a book in one sitting, but this story was so haunting and compelling, like a sleepy nightmare unfolding before you while you are unable to look away.

Told in a way
4.5 stars - (#partner @pantheonbooks) • I flew through The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa. This book is set on an island where things disappear. Perfume, emeralds, even birds. When an object disappears, all memories of the objects fade. The disappearances are reinforced by the Memory Police, who track down those who remember and make them disappear too. The unnamed narrator of this book is a novelist. She decides to take a risk and hide her editor, R, who remembers things, with the help of her frie ...more
Dimitris Passas
This is a dystopian novel set in an unnamed island where nearly every day certain things, objects or living beings disappear totally, leaving the inhabitants with absolutely no memory of them. The author uses simple, plain prose with some poetic -even lyrical- moments in order to narrate an Orwellian story where an oppressing institution, the titular Memory Police, makes sure that there is nothing left for the people to remember the "disappeared" entities. I mostly enjoyed the book, which was fi ...more
Aug 03, 2019 marked it as to-read
*Received via NetGalley for review*

A beautiful, dreamy, and existentially terrifying tale of an unarmed protagonist on an island where things are gradually disappearing. They don't physically disappear: they still exist, but residents lose all knowledge, memories, and perception of them, rendering them functionally invisible.

There are a select few who can remember, who are not affected. R, the main character's friend, is one of them. Her mother was another. Unfortunately, the protagonist is not,
I don’t know if this is something weird to admit, but I really like reading books that deals with/explores memory in some way. The human memory is such a wondrous and complex thing; I find it’s fascinating to see how writers can manipulate it to explore different themes and storylines.

Take Yogo Ogawa’s latest novel, THE MEMORY POLICE (trans by Stephen Snyder), for example. It takes us to an island where things are slowly disappearing. When they disappear, they lose meaning and the people on the
I LOVED this book and tore right through it. It was a perfect read for Women in Translation month.

Genre- Dystopian. (Very Orwellian)
Tone - Eerie and strange. (Think Murakami)
Writing - Quietly poetic. Sparse and beautiful.

This book takes place on an island where various things are “disappeared”. Perfume, emeralds, hats, and even birds are not only erased, but the memory of them is also erased. This is enforced by the memory police, who disappear people that remember.
The story itself is a very
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

This is a dystopian fantasy, with an almost fairy tale or dreamlike feel to the story and writing. On an island that is probably part of Japan (though this is never explicitly stated) every once in a while something is 'disappeared'. When this happens the residents of the island wake up to find that all memory and meaning of the disappeared item (a hat, perfume, roses, et cetera) is gone from their heads, and when they encounter the physical item they
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Yōko Ogawa (小川 洋子) was born in Okayama, Okayama Prefecture, graduated from Waseda University, and lives in Ashiya. Since 1988, she has published more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction. Her novel The Professor and his Beloved Equation has been made into a movie. In 2006 she co-authored „An Introduction to the World's Most Elegant Mathematics“ with Masahiko Fujiwara, a mathematician, as a ...more