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The Memory Police

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,768 ratings  ·  390 reviews
On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses - until things become much more serious. Most of the island's inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with no power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappea ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 1st 2019 by Pantheon (first published 1994)
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  • The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa
    The Memory Police
    Release date: Aug 13, 2019

    A haunting Orwellian novel about the terrors of state surveillance, from the acclaimed author of The Hous

    Format: Print book

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    Availability: 10 copies available, 3947 people requesting

    Giveaway dates: Oct 13 - Oct 25, 2019

    Countries available: U.S.

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    Average rating 3.85  · 
    Rating details
     ·  1,768 ratings  ·  390 reviews

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    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 to fa
    Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: japan, 2019-read
    Now a Finalist for the National Book Award for Translated Literature 2019
    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,
    The horrors of forgetting

    At first glance, The Memory Police, originally published in Japan in 1994 and now available in an excellent English translation, looks like a descendant of George Orwell's. Set on an unnamed island, objects are routinely "disappeared", both physically and also in the minds of the people. One day birds disappear. The next day it could be a type of candy. Anyone who dares to keep disappeared items is in danger. Those who actually remember them are in bigger danger. The Memory Police, cla
    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
    Nancy Oakes
    4.5 rounded up.

    It wasn't too long after starting this book before I noticed something strange about it. By page 98, it hit me that for a story labeled as "Orwellian," it was written in a surprisingly quiet tone. Without discounting the bizarre events recounted in this book, the understated style alone was actually disturbing in its own right, and I experienced a sort of weird off-kilteredness throughout the story.

    Actually, the book works on two very different levels. The "O
    Oct 15, 2019 rated it liked it

    3.5 stars

    An unnamed woman lives on an island that's losing objects, one at a time.

    As the story opens many things - like ribbons, stamps, gems, hats, bells, perfume, candies, and boats - have disappeared. Once an item is gone, the islanders lose all knowledge of it, and no longer recognize it or know its purpose.

    Exceptions to residents with mass amnesia are a small number of citizens who can remember everything. One of these 'rememberers' was the woman's mother. When the woman was young, her mother wo
    Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: poc-author
    3.5 stars
    A quiet dystopian that is more a story about loss and memory than about the dystopia itself.
    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 thi
    Sep 11, 2019 rated it liked it
    Shelves: dystopia, translated
    Well, this did not go as well as I had hoped. I have been tricked into reading a surreal allegory and it has left me discombobulated.

    A few years ago I enjoyed Ogawa's short story collection Revenge but I should have given more consideration to this line in my review of it : reading equivalent of looking at miniature surrealist still life paintings . It is now apparent that I can only handle my surrealism in tiny brushstrokes because blown up to the size of a novel this languid, ps
    Paul Fulcher
    Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: 2019
    Now shortlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Translated Literature

    Silence fell around us all, as through we were steeling ourselves for the next disappearance, which would no doubt come — perhaps even tomorrow. So it was that evening came to the island.

    The Memory Police has been translated by Stephen Synder from Yōko Ogawa's 1994 original. As with Revenge, Synder's translation is excellent, with prose that is simple yet powerful, although again as with Revenge the title has been changed in Engli/>Silence
    Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: netgalley
    'If it goes on like this and we can't compensate for the things that get lost, the island will soon be nothing but absences and holes, and when it's completely hollowed out, we'll all disappear without a trace.'

    On an unnamed island, things are changing. Objects vanish from memory, one following another, no timescale, no discernible pattern. The sinister Memory Police watch over it all, ready to intervene should people remember. Memories might go quietly, but things with mass, with weight, people have to be r
    Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: fantasy, translated
    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 disa
    Carmel Hanes
    Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
    If I read this as a strange dystopian novel, I'd be a bit disappointed in what appears to be a simplistic tale told with even more simplistic dialogue and uneventful events. I'd be puzzled by the novel-within-a-novel format that follows a writer trying to complete a manuscript, while the culture in which she lives is persecuted by "memory police" who control who remembers what about the world around them.

    But this is no simple tale. It offers a kaleidoscopic view of how power can control daily l
    Anna Luce
    ★★★✰✰ 3 stars

    “But our memories were diminishing day by day, for when something disappeared from the island, all memory of it vanished, too.”

    The Memory Police reminded me of a book I recently read, called Amatka. Given that the former was first published in 1994 and the latter is a fairly recent release I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Karin Tidbeck had read Yōko Ogawa's novel. Similarities to Amatka aside, I still felt an odd sense of familiarity while I was being first introduced to the weird world of The/>
    Characterised as a science-fiction novel reminiscent of Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty Four, but with a dreamlike Kafka-esque quality of the fantastic, Yoko Ogawa’s newest English-translated novel, The Memory Police, embodies the sheer horror of loss and the inevitability of preventing it. The novel was originally published in Japan in 1994 and has been beautifully translated into English by Stephen Snyder.

    The novel is set in a fictional and unnamed island (one can’t help but presume it uncannily brings
    Silvia Moreno-Garcia
    If The Memory Police were an American novel, it might yield a contrarian hero determined to fight off the tyranny of the police. It would be something akin to The Handmaid's Tale, or the movie version of Minority Report. One can even envision a high-paid Hollywood actor starring in the Netflix adaptation: They're coming for your memories, but she's got a plan to stop them!

    But this is a Japanese novel — so for anyone looking for thrills, I'd like to warn you that despite the tagline "
    Sep 19, 2019 rated it liked it

    What a weird and fascinating story about an island whose inhabitants are slowly losing their memories as the state police removes people and objects from the society. Lots to chew on. That said, until the last 50 pages I found it a bit dull.
    Stephen Robert Collins
    Sep 13, 2019 is currently reading it
    Huge praise for Yoko Ogawa one Japanese top writers but if that is the case why has this book had to wait 25 years for Stephen Snyder to translation into English when lot of other books are in other languages?
    This was SFX mag sf recommend book of complex contemporary classic in style of 1984 & Brave New World a dark world of thought.
    Memory control a nightmare for anybody but here it is trying to hide in room full of unthought full mindless minds while the Police stand ready to wi
    Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
    The Memory Police does something that not a lot of books can do - it doesn't answer a single question about it's apocalypse, about it's quiet dystopia, but it doesn't matter.

    The sense of dark, quiet foreboding is a soliloquy on today's internet culture, on our collective experiences and amnesias and amputations. The murk, the apathy, the disappearance of self is an allegory and a warning.

    It's so astounding to me that this was originally written 25 years ago, in a time where the internet as we know i
    B. P. Rinehart
    De Libertad y Amor by Illapu

    "'Maybe because you write novels, you come up with these extreme ideas . . . No, I'm sorry, that's rude--maybe I should say grand ideas. Isn't that what it means to be a novelist? To come up with grand stories?
    -'Well, I suppose so," I mumbled in turn. 'But I'm not talking about stories. This is real--'

    There is always a feeling one gets when finishing a good book. For myself, the feeling was simply to be able to find a book I wanted to read. In April of this year (2019) I read a New York Times article showcasing boIllapu
    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
    Like the falling snow, which is a recurring occurrence or motif within this story, the text and tone of this story was quiet and peaceful, which is an interesting contrast to the shock of the disappearances of numerous items over years on an unnamed island. An item disappears, and people collectively forget them, and can't visualize or even feel the emotions associated with the memory any longer. And to ensure that the memory is erased across the island, never to be mentioned again, the Memory P ...more
    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
    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
    The Captain
    Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: sci-fi
    Ahoy there me mateys!  Matey Sarah @ hamlets&hyperspace had an awesome review that led me to this amazing read.  She said:

    The writing and the translation (done, I believe, by Stephen Snyder) are beautifully done.  It doesn’t seem like anything special at first, and I don’t recall any passages that made me think: ‘I need to save this for my review!’.  But at the same time it kept me consistently engaged despite the slow pacing and plot.  It whisked me away and offered me an escape.  Al/>
    Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Highly recommend! Read without much context, which was best. The reviews give too much away. Will be thinking about this for a while.
    Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Quietly disturbing, the audiobook narration was wonderful. #WITmomth
    "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 i/>
    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, mysteri
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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 Math ...more