The Memory Police: A Novel (Hardcover)
On Our Shelves Now
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.
“A masterful work of speculative fiction, The Memory Police is set on a nameless island where every instance of a plant, animal, or object occasionally vanishes without a trace . . . If that isn’t creepy enough, there’s also an armed force of ‘memory police’ dedicated to erasing all evidence of whatever has vanished. An unforgettable literary thriller full of atmospheric horror.” —Chicago Tribune
“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
“A searing, vividly imagined novel by a wildly talented writer . . . Dark and ambitious.” —Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)
“In her newest novel, The Memory Police, 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
“A deeply traumatizing novel in the best way possible.” —Vulture
“A taut, claustrophobic thriller . . . In Yoko Ogawa's elegiac novel The Memory Police, translated by Stephen Snyder, 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
“Although her works have been widely translated over the years, Japanese author Yōko Ogawa is probably best known to English-speaking audiences for 2003’s The Housekeeper And The Professor, a sweet rumination on the fleeting power of memory . . . [The Memory Police] looks to explore similar themes, but from an altogether more horrific perspective . . . 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