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.
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!
‘Till next time … happy reading!