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The Memory Police Reviews

The Memory Police  by Yoko Ogawa, Stephen Snyder

The Memory Police

Yoko Ogawa, Stephen Snyder

4.25 out of 5

4 reviews

Category: Thrillers, Fiction
Imprint: Harvill Secker
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication date: 15 Aug 2019
ISBN: 9781846559495

It can be burned in the garden, thrown in the river or handed over to the Memory Police. For some reason, he doesn't forget, and it's becoming increasingly difficult for him to hide his memories.The Memory Police is a beautiful, haunting and provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss, from one of Japan's greatest writers.

  • The GuardianBook of the Day
4 stars out of 5
Alex Clark
20 Aug 2019

"An island community facing disappearances, not only of objects but of complete concepts, makes for an unsettling novel"

Ogawa exploits the psychological complexity of this bizarre situation to impressive effect, overlaying its natural tension with sexual ambiguity and a sense that the lines between safety and captivity are being blurred. Interspersed with the narrator’s account of the difficulties of keeping her clandestine housemate hidden, fed, watered and entertained are excerpts from her own novel, which appears to be swinging wildly into a terrifying story of Bluebeard-style abduction: “I had imagined that the two of them, bound by a warmer and more ordinary affection, would wander off to search for her voice at a typewriter factory or in a lighthouse at the end of a cape or in a morgue or in the storage room of a stationer’s, but somehow things had ended up like this.”


4 stars out of 5
Jane Shilling
6 Aug 2020

"Ogawa’s elegant, haunting novel "

‘I sometimes wonder what was disappeared first — among all the things that have vanished from the island,’ reflects the narrator. As a child, she would sit in the riverside studio belonging to her mother, a sculptor, examining objects that no longer existed: a bell, a ribbon, a perfume bottle. Yet she has no memory of them, and she will learn that to remember can be fatal.

Ogawa’s elegant, haunting novel comes with an urgent message: ‘Important things remain important, no matter how much the world changes.’

4 stars out of 5
Martha Sprackland
1 Nov 2019

"At the heart of The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa’s masterful 1994 novel, now published in English in Stephen Snyder’s lucid and elegant translation, is the way that, once lost, things get forgotten"

As unsettling now as it was when it was first published twenty-five years ago, The Memory Police is both a deeply political novel and a meditation on dying. An act of resistance, it asks us not only to heed its warnings about propaganda and authoritarianism, collusion and silence, but also to strive to keep close those things authentically valuable in life.

5 stars out of 5
Madeleine Thien
23 Aug 2019

"This Japanese fable about an island where disappearance is a way of life is a masterpiece, meditating on totalitarianism and resistance as well as the rhythms of life and death "

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.