Varsha Ravi (between.bookends)'s Reviews > The Memory Police

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa
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really liked it
bookshelves: dystopian-speculative-fiction, translated

The Memory Police is a sinister, hypnotic and quietly menacing tale set on an unnamed island with an unnamed female novelist as its main protagonist. Ogawa is a master storyteller and there is such control and precision to her story-telling that lends a kind of self-assured comfort, an implied trust between the reader and the author.

Mundane, everyday objects begin to disappear on this island. Along with each disappearance, complete memory of that object is lost as well. The Memory Police, belonging to an unnamed authoritarian government, ensure that those disappeared objects remain forgotten and anyone who doesn’t seem to forget is then taken away. There are few who retain the memory of these objects and an underground network of safe houses emerge to harbour these fugitives whose memories are intact. The narrator herself takes into hiding her editor, referred to as R, as he is one of the few who retains memories of forgotten objects. She accomplishes this with the help of an old man, a family friend and these 3 become the pivotal characters we follow in the novel, a makeshift family of sorts. Despite the looming bleakness of the overall narrative, there are some truly beautiful moments the three characters share that add so much heart and warmth to this story. It also has this meta-narrative aspect to it, as the protagonist in this novel is a novelist herself and you get snippets from her manuscript. It takes an unexpected turn when words disappear.

The novel becomes insidiously eerie as it progresses, beginning with the disappearance of mundane objects to the disappearance of calendars and a sense of time. Then seasons disappear, with a perennial winter setting in, ultimately till people start disappearing in parts. Using this powerful technique of disappearing objects and memories, the narrative gradually chisels away our sense of self, ending in something far more existential. Ogawa’s novel is a powerful exploration of control and authority and our own docile complicity that leads to our imminent destruction. Along with the welfare of the state, humanity and empathy, she also subtly addresses our impact on the environment. It’s moving, chilling, profound and resonant. A kind of novel that lingers long after it’s been read.

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Reading Progress

March 12, 2019 – Shelved
March 12, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
August 14, 2019 – Started Reading
August 14, 2019 – Shelved as: dystopian-speculative-fiction
August 14, 2019 – Shelved as: translated
August 19, 2019 – Finished Reading

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