The Memory Police is part of the “fellow bloggers made me do it” category – it caught my attention after briefly reading about it on other blogs (fortunately without spoilers), and then I noticed it was shortlisted for the 2020 International Booker Prize.

The Memory Police in a nutshell

The Memory Police tells the daunting dystopian story about an island controlled by… guess who?! The Memory Police. They are in charge of what people remember, what objects are burnt and forgotten, what beings and plants disappear. However, there are some people, the outlaws, who do not forget. The story is told through the eyes of a young writer, our Jane Doe, who writes novels for a living.

Overall impression

I love reading a good scary dystopian, and The Memory Police definitely presents a frightening society. The idea that memories of people can be managed by an external (unknown) mechanism is certainly not one that I would like to see in the real world … The Memory Police is a thought-provoking story that reminded me of 1984 by George Orwell and The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (my review).

From my point of view, the story is more action-driven than focused on character development; nonetheless, there are sections when things happen quite slow … it might be part of the mechanics of creating the dark atmosphere, but I would’ve preferred more action instead.

Inspired by the real story of Anne Frank

After finishing the book I discovered that the similarities I noticed between the diary of Anne Frank and Yoko Ogawa’s story were not a coincidence: “The Memory Police has its origins in Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl [..] As I wrote, she was always in the back of my mind….” (Ogawa, 2020).

The real story of Anne Frank is heartbreaking, and it seems that Yoko Ogawa first read Anne’s diary when she was in high school: “Her diary proved that people can grow even in such a confined situation. And writing could give people freedom.” (Ogawa, 2019).

Published almost 30 years ago?!

While researching about the book, I found out that The Memory Police was published a long time ago – in 1994! This came as a huge surprise!! Only in 2019 the story was translated in English – 25 years after the publication in Japan.

I cannot stop wondering how many hidden literary gems must be out there, published in local languages and not translated in widely-spoken languages such as English, French, Spanish.


To conclude, The Memory Police is a dystopian story that I definitely recommend reading! It is beautifully written (and translated), and tells a frightening story that sent chills down my spins multiple times while reading it. And the end … oh, the end is truly heart-wrenching. But don’t take my word for granted – read the book and see for yourself!

Have you read The Memory Police or other books by Yoko Ogawa? What are your favourite dystopian novels? Please let me know!

If you would like to buy books or other (non)bookish things, please consider using one of these links: Amazon | Waterstones | Carturesti. Thank you!

‘Till next time … happy reading!


7 thoughts on “The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (book review) – when remembering is a sin

  1. This sounds amazing! Even more fascinating that it was inspired by Anne Frank’s story. I like how many books in Japanese are getting English translation, it seems there are many and that’s very exciting

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’m also excited about the new wave of translations! It’s such a pity that some books do not get as much attention as they deserve because of language barriers!


  2. Interesting review, thank you 🙂 I have seen this book around, I don’t really wish to read it as I have gone off dystopias but maybe I will get to it in the future. Good point about how many books are out there which could be amazing but are yet to get English translations.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really like the sound of this and also love a good piece of dystopian fiction. I’m trying to remember the last dystopian book I read, it was probably Fahrenheit 451 last summer – which was a bit of an uneven reading experience for me. You’re so right on the world of literary gems that are inaccessible to most readers, having not been translated. I’m going to make a conscious effort this year to read more in translation!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I haven’t read Fahrenheit 451 so far! Did you enjoy the story? Would you recommend it? 😀

      Good luck with your endeavor or reading more translated books! I am also mixing English books with translated stories (lately from Asia).
      Thanks a lot for joining the discussion!

      Liked by 1 person

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