A haunting Orwellian novel about the terrors of state surveillance, from the acclaimed author of The Housekeeper and the Professor.
On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses—until things become much more serious. Most of the island's inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappeared remains forgotten.
When a young woman who is struggling to maintain her career as a novelist discovers that her editor is in danger from the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him beneath her floorboards. As fear and loss close in around them, they cling to her wiring as the last way of preserving the past.
A surreal, provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss, The Memory Police is a stunning new work from one of the most exciting contemporary authors writing in any language.
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.
“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
“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
“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
“Ogawa’s new novel is the fresh take on 1984 you didn’t know you needed.” —The Washington Post
“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 . . . The acclaimed Japanese author issues a warning about what happens when even the writers lose their hold on reality, past and present . . . Ogawa draws clear parallels to Orwell's 1984 here: the truth of human experience can be forced into whatever shape an oppressive government dictates, with the threat of complete oblivion always on the horizon. Resistance means imprisonment, or worse.” —Salon
“A provocative fable that uses an Orwellian surveillance state to examine the power of memory and the trauma of loss.” —John DeNardo, Kirkus Reviews
“Ogawa has a well-honed knack for merging surrealist themes—in this case, the rising, hard-to-shake sense that ‘truth’ has gotten more malleable in recent years—with her protagonist’s own internal lives, and The Memory Police looks to be as much about loss as it is about the terrifying rise of unreality in the modern world.” —The A.V. Club
“Ogawa’s anointed translator, Snyder, adroitly captures the quiet control with which Ogawa gently unfurls her ominously surreal and Orwellian narrative. The Memory Police loom, their brutality multiplies, but Ogawa remarkably ensures that what lingers are the human(e) connections—building a communicating device with tubing, sharing pancake bites with a grateful dog, a birthday party. As the visceral disappears, somehow the spirit holds on.” —Booklist (starred review)
“A quiet tale that considers the way small, human connections can disrupt the callous powers of authority . . . 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. Small acts of rebellion—as modest as a birthday party—do not come out of a commitment to a greater cause but instead originate from her characters' kinship with one another.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Ogawa crafts a powerful story about the processing of loss and the importance of memories.” —Annabel Gutterman, Time
“Eerily surreal, Ogawa's novel takes Orwellian tropes of a surveillance state and makes them markedly her own: Centered around a writer trying to keep her editor from going missing, this dark novel traces disappearances orchestrated by the Memory Police, tasked with keeping the public unaware of any changes to their reality.” —Thrillist