The Memory Police (1994), translated edition 2019

A mysterious island where everything vanishes into the darkness. On this island a female writer tries to survive and we follow her during her struggle to survive and her resistance against the Memory Police.

Once upon a time, in an unknown sea, there was an island. And on this island, things vanish. It’s perfectly strange how things gradually fade away and disappear. Seemingly random items disappear, and with them the memory of those things fade. One day all birds fly away and disappear into the horizon, but then everyone forgets that birds used to exist, and the elusive well-dressed Memory Police ensures that all traces of bird existence vanish. So, at the end of the day, no one on the island remembers the birds; instead, people continue about their lives as if the birds never were.

The female protagonist, who remains unidentified throughout the tale, lives on this island and is stuck on it. During the opening chapter of the narrative, the reader learns that the memories of boats have vanished and that the Memory Police have shattered all of the surviving boats. As a result, no one can sail to the mainland. Because the inhabitants are all stranded on the island, they must rely on what grows and can be found on the island to survive.

This becomes increasingly difficult as the story progresses. Some fruits and vegetables, for example, simply vanish and no one knows why. As a result of the absence, life on the island becomes increasingly difficult. We also discover that the protagonist is a writer, but her work gets increasingly difficult as time passes. Because every tale is built up of building blocks such as animals or objects, yet those things are slowly vanishing.

To make matters worse, the memory police check to see if everyone forgets what disappears, and those who don’t forget disappear themselves. She, fortunately or unfortunately, forgets her memories, as do many other individuals on the island. R, her publisher, is one of those who never forgets. She sees this and, with the help of an old acquaintance called the old man, they try to keep him hidden from the Memory Police.

They attempt to do this by constructing a hideaway. In addition to this, it appears that the protagonist is quite kind, as she cares for and assists the elderly guy. So she is attempting to exist in a world that is progressively fading away, while also struggling to remember and assisting her publisher, R, in staying concealed from the Memory Police.

This is not the only narrative. The main character is an author who also writes novels. Occasionally, she writes pages of her newest work, and the reader reads fragments about a lady who has lost her voice. This character tries to cope with the loss of her voice by enrolling in a typing training, but not everything appears to be as it appears. Thus, like the main narrative, this novella is about losing something and dealing with it.

Throughout the novelle, the main character confronts obstacles that are comparable to those experienced in the main narrative. As a result, The Memory Police is an embedded narrative. The fictional female main character of The Memory Police is creating and exhibiting a fictional work about a lady who has lost her voice to the reader.

So the key point, in my opinion, is that without memory, individuals cease to exist. Because the tale focuses on how individuals lose their memories, and as a result, the main character says they develop holes in their hearts and feel empty. When a result, it appears that as memories fade, they disappear as well. And, to be dead serious, this is correct. My grandmother had dementia, and she, like the others in the novel, slowly faded away. Thus, by losing one’s memories, one loses oneself.

To read or not to read

It’s a weird novel, to be sure, but I believe it’s pretty intriguing. Throughout these pages, one begins to empathize with the book’s characters. This is because we all know that losing memories is one of the most terrible things in the world. We simply read about a person’s problems and coping mechanisms. On top of that, there appears to be an authoritarian hidden memory police that rules over the island without dissent. The only difference is that they don’t appear to be concerned by the disappearances. They merely keep harassing and tyrannizing the island’s hapless people since they don’t seem to get rid of what they should have forgotten. So this book is definitely a read if one likes the darker books, likes dystopian worlds.

The Memory Police (1994), translation 2019

Written by Yoko Ogawa (1962), translated by Stephen Snyder (1957).

274 pages. Pinguin Random House LLC, New York

Copyright © 2021

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