- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Pantheon; 1st Edition edition (August 13, 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1101870605
- ISBN-13: 978-1101870600
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Memory Police: A Novel Hardcover – August 13, 2019
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A Finalist for the National Book Award for Translated Literature
“An elegantly spare dystopian fable. . . . Reading The Memory Police is like sinking into a snowdrift: lulling yet suspenseful, it tingles with dread and incipient numbness. . . . Ogawa’s ruminant style captures the alienation of being alive as the world’s ecosystems, ice sheets, languages, animal species and possible futures vanish more quickly than any one mind can apprehend.” —The New York Times Book Review
“The Memory Police is a masterpiece: a deep pool that can be experienced as fable or allegory, warning and illumination. It is a novel that makes us see differently, opening up its ideas in inconspicuous ways, knowing that all moments of understanding and grace are fleeting. It is political and human, it makes no promises. It is a rare work of patient and courageous vision. . . . [It] reaches English-language readers as if sent from the future.” —The Guardian
“A masterful work of speculative fiction. . . . An unforgettable literary thriller full of atmospheric horror.” —Chicago Tribune
"Quietly devastating. . . . Ogawa finds new ways to express old anxieties about authoritarianism, environmental depredation and humanity’s willingness to be complicit in its own demise." —The Washington Post
“A feat of dark imagination . . . Ogawa stages an intimate, suspenseful drama of courage and endurance while conjuring up a world that is at once recognizable and profoundly strange. . . . Emerging from Ms. Ogawa’s latest creation feels like waking up to find an unsettling dream sliding just out of memory.” —The Wall Street Journal
“The Memory Police truly feels like a portrait of today. To await the future is to disappear the present—which only accelerates the speed with which now turns to then, and then turns to nothing. . . . It's difficult not to see The Memory Police as a comment on creeping authoritarianism. So too is it a lovely, if bleak, meditation on faith and creativity—or faith in creativity—in a world that disavows both." —Wired (Book of the Month)
“In an era where the concept of truth is negotiable and Alexa might be spying on you, Ogawa’s taut novel of surveillance makes for timely, provocative reading . . . A harrowing parable about the importance of memory and the profound danger of cultural amnesia.” —Esquire
“One of Japan’s most acclaimed authors explores truth, state surveillance and individual autonomy. Ogawa’s fable echoes the themes of George Orwell’s 1984, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, but it has a voice and power all its own.” —Time
“The novel is particularly resonant now, at a time of rising authoritarianism across the globe. Throughout the book, citizens live under police surveillance. Novels are burned. People are detained and interrogated without explanation.” —The New York Times
“A deeply traumatizing novel in the best way possible.” —Vulture
“Ogawa lays open a hushed defiance against a totalitarian regime by training her prodigious talent on magnifying the efforts of those who persistently but quietly rebel.” —The Japan Times
"You won’t be forgetting this haunting and imaginative novel anytime soon.” —Refinery29
“A searing, vividly imagined novel by a wildly talented writer . . . Dark and ambitious.” —Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)
"A poignant examination about how struggles and people are interconnected and the fact that security is not enough to hope for. . . . Ogawa’s prose feel[s] applicable not just to political atrocities like genocide but to climate change or any other crisis made worse by general complacency.” —The A. V. Club
“A taut, claustrophobic thriller.” —Salon
“Ogawa crafts a powerful story about the processing of loss and the importance of memories.” —Annabel Gutterman, Time
“Ogawa’s anointed translator, Snyder, adroitly captures the quiet control with which Ogawa gently unfurls her ominously surreal and Orwellian narrative.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Eerily surreal, Ogawa's novel takes Orwellian tropes of a surveillance state and makes them markedly her own.” —Thrillist
“Ogawa employs a quiet, poetic prose to capture the diverse (and often unexpected) emotions of the people left behind rather than of those tormented and imprisoned by brutal authorities.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A provocative fable.” —John DeNardo, Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
YOKO OGAWA has won every major Japanese literary award. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, and Zoetrope: All-Story. Her works include The Diving Pool, a collection of three novellas; The Housekeeper and the Professor; Hotel Iris; and Revenge. She lives in Tokyo.
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23 customer reviews
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THEN I read Motoko Rich's review in the NY TIMES, and things suddenly fell into place. Knowing a bit about the huge influence Anne Frank had on Ogawa, about revisionist Japanese history and the problems often faced by those who contradict the official version, and other key insights provided by Rich made everything make sense. Then it became a 5-star book.
So I really encourage potential buyers to look up Rich's review. Armed with a bit of background, I think you will like the book so much more.
And, for the reader, slipping toward its inevitable conclusion is relentless.
Ogawa’s “The Memory Police”, just released in 2019 for eBooks though evidently published 25 years earlier in Japanese, seems to be a dystopia novel set on an unnamed island on which the inhabitants are having unusual experiences.
Against a bleak winter landscape people and objects are disappearing presumably at the hands of a monolithic authoritarian force, The Memory Police. At first the removals seem to have a purpose and predictability, hence, the willingness of those remaining to accept and bear silent witness to its progress. Resistance is subtle and disguised though ultimately revealed by police scrutiny or natural mishap.
However, all is not what it appears to be. And for this reason I find characterizing the story as Orwellian is a profound disservice. This is a meditation about life and its inevitable direction as best we can experience and understand it. The Memory Police are our own limitations and loss of perception.
As with her 2009 “The Housekeeper and the Professor”, the author’s three main characters – the young woman who is a writer, her male companion she is hiding and keeping alive in a secret room and her friend, the old man – are not identified by names. This anonymity makes their experiences more intimate and more universal.
Ogawa introduces an enchanting and clever alternative story through a developing novel the young woman is creating. In this story the roles are reversed. The young woman in this story, a secretarial student, is being kept by a male instructor in an attic filled with broken typewriters. At first she cannot leave, only glimpse life at a distance, but inevitably chooses not to leave even when she has the chance.
Both characters are moving toward the essence of life by different paths of reduction: one by loss of physical objects surrounding and part of her, the other through loss of mobility and engagement outside of herself.
Yet, as the dual stories move to the shared vanishing point, both main story and fictional women will realize the same epiphany, underscoring the author’s intent to show a common, not singular, experience.
Ogawa seems to share Thornton Wilder’s musing in his 1938 play, “Our Town”“:
“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?”
Not without loss, it would seem.
Here’s the link to my Amazon review of Ogawa’s 2009 “The Housekeeper and the Professor”: https://www.amazon.com/review/R1G7QMVXBL1672/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8)