The Memory Police
In The Memory Place, items on an unnamed island keep disappearing, and disappearing from the memories of the inhabitants. The authoritarian government employs a secretive “memory police” to ensure no one remembers what disappeared. Those who do remember — well, those who are unable to forget what has been lost — are rounded up by the memory police. The protagonist, a novelist, hides her editor in a secret annex in her house — he doesn’t forget anything, and is at risk at being taken away.
Japanese author Yoko Ogawa was inspired by Anne Frank. “I wanted to digest Anne’s experience in my own way and then recompose it into my work,” Ogawa told The New York Times. Even though I didn’t know about the Anne Frank connection before reading The Memory Police, it felt like a commentary on surveillance states and what happens when you can no longer trust your neighbor. The tension builds slowly — as more and more things disappear from the island — and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop the inevitable disappearance of everything. Even the narrator, the protagonist, is resigned to what is happening — when her editor (who is hiding in her house) tries to encourage her to remember certain things – like the ferry! or roses! — she just gets frustrated and sad.
The Japanese version of The Memory Police was published in 1994, but was just translated into English this year. It’s crazy to me that this came out 25 years ago, because it feels so deeply relevant to the times we’re living through. Which, hey: that’s the power of a good dystopian novel! Random House calls the novel “a surreal, provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss,” and yes, that feel accurate.
Get it here: https://amzn.to/2zIsO8q