The Memory Police ~ by Yoko Ogawa 

From the Booker International Prizes 2021 and read for my Booker Group  That year the winner was “At Night All Blood Is Black” by David Diop which was pretty bleak. This is more sci-fi or speculative fiction and it’s sad, but not so bleak.  It becomes too weird to be bleak.  The Memory Police by Yoko Ogaw

The Memory Police 
by Yoko Ogawa
(Japanese)
Translated by Steven Snyder
Read by Traci Kato-Kiriyama 9h 8m 
2020 / Rating: 6 / sci-fi 
(This book was originally published in Japan in 1994.)

From the Booker International Prizes 2021 and read for my Booker Reading Group. In 2021 the winner was “At Night All Blood Is Black” by David Diop which was quite bleak. This is more sci-fi or speculative fiction and it’s sad, but not so bleak.  It becomes too weird to be bleak.  

On a small island somewhere (near Japan?) things and people are disappearing. Even memories are disappearing although that may be the point. The unnamed first person narrator, an author of novels, is losing people, places, things and even memories, especially emotional memory. The culprit is the memory police. 

Her editor, R, remembers some things, or he remembers the sensations of them, the smells, the words.  Names are used only as necessary and then maybe limited.  

The memory police have authority to enter and confiscate people and things so sometimes people hide the items or themselves.  Life gets pretty scary and most of our main characters have to hide. 

At first “The Memory Police” has a sad and nostalgic air to it, a sense of allegory to an extent, but it’s not quite that dreamy.  Parts of the story are beyond logic and that works to an extent, for awhile, until it doesn’t.  I suppose this book might be as good as 1984 or Fahrenheit 451, but we are living in 2021, not 1950, and we’re still dealing with the very real coronavirus.  

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