The Memory Police

The Memory Police

Book - 2019
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"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."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, 2019.
Edition: 1st American ed.
ISBN: 9781101870600
Branch Call Number: FIC Ogawa
Characteristics: 274 p. ; 22 cm.
Additional Contributors: Snyder, Stephen 1957-

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Magicworld
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.

k
kountzcl
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.

u
uncommonreader
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.

d
duckcalldan
Jan 12, 2020

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

m
MikeEe
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.

ACL_JennyR Nov 05, 2019

Is it possible to grieve for something when all memories of it disappear? On a remote Japanese island, objects, animals, & feelings suddenly disappear. People know something is gone, but are uncertain about what, exactly. Is grief easier if there's no memories of what's lost? Is it possible to feel love & happiness without the contingent feelings of fear and loss?
The Memory Police builds a world of wonder and emotion, encouraging all of the ways that love and attachment can develop.

Tigard_HollyCP Oct 28, 2019

Things disappear. That’s just the way it is. And when they disappear, people don’t remember them anymore. There are a few people who remember, but they are few and far between. The book is hard to describe because it is so dreamlike and surreal, but it has a clear story line that will keep you wanting more. It has a definite Orwellian feel to it. A lot of things don’t really make sense, but then that’s kind of the point. The protagonist, a woman who doesn’t remember, is a novelist, so within the book is the story she is writing, which is just as dreamlike and surreal as the book itself. I feel unsettled as I write this review because the book itself is so unsettling! If you like Orwell and other dystopian fiction, definitely pick this book up.

multcolib_rachaels Oct 26, 2019

On an island in Japan whole classes of things disappear regularly. Birds will leave. The people will have an irresistible desire to destroy all calendars. And soon the lost things are forgotten, the words and feelings that went with them gone. But some people remember, even hiding examples of their favorites. The memory police search out those who hold onto memories and destroy them. The narrator does not remember, but some of the people she loves do, and she tries to protect them. Original and beautifully written.

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