The Memory Police (Yoko Ogawa)

26 April 2023

The Memory Police

Hat, ribbon, bird rose.

To the people on the island, a disappeared thing no longer has any meaning. It can be burned in the garden, thrown in the river or handed over to the Memory Police. Soon enough, the island forgets it ever existed.

When a young novelist discovers that her editor is in danger of being taken away by the Memory Police, she desperately wants to save him. For some reason, he doesn't forget, and it's becoming increasingly difficult for him to hide his memories. Who knows what will vanish next?

Average Rating:

Sinclair Manson (13 May 2023 20:39)

It seemed from the discussion that people were uncertain what to make of this book. I think a lot of this is down to the enigmatic protagonist, who remains strangely passive, even as she commits multiple acts of rebellion. To her, tyranny is an inevitable inconvenience, like bad weather. While it necessitates her crimes, one never gets the sense that those crimes are aimed at actually overthrowing tyranny, or that that is even an option she can conceive of.

I read this as a study of life under an oppressive regime, not focussed on a resistance or free thinkers, but on an ordinary person who accomodates herself to the point of annihilation. I'm sure any oppressive regime would love to make its citizens forget all inconvenient facts, and the story within a story equates a coercive personal relationship to coercive politics, which is a very interesting angle to take.

A difficult book to get into but one that feels quite unique.

Paul Campbell (27 April 2023 12:23)

This is Marmite, apparently. Indeed, I was the only reader to connect with it. For me a 5 star read all the way. For everyone else... meh. 2 or a 3. It's a 280pg drop you in the middle explain nothing mood piece enigma. Taking a clinical step back *maybe* I can see why others would be left cold and frustrated, but honestly I loved everything about it: the quality of the writing, the focus on character-story and the total disregard for plot-mechanics. Where others have been pushed out due to the lack of logic and clarity I've fallen in and become completely immersed. Some times it's as much as when you read a book as it is the book itself: this came along at a critical moment in my life and literally saved it. The emotional enrichment I got from this novel made me want to keep on living. Am I disappointed no one else 'got it'? Sure, although maybe more bemused than disappointed. Either way this book will always have a special place on my shelf... and in my heart.