I just finished reading the 1994 novel The Memory Police by Yoko Ogowa, and I feel things. Not sure if they are positive or negative feels, but they are there nonetheless. Come find out my thoughts and whether you should try this classic dystopian novel.
On an unnamed island, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses. . . . Most of the inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few able 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 writer discovers that her editor is in danger, she concocts a plan to hide him beneath her floorboards, and together they cling to her writing as the last way of preserving the past.
A warning about Marxist governments? A commentary on aging and our eventual death? The change of our world as new ways make old traditions and objects obsolete? What is this book about, and does it have to really mean anything specific, or can it be whatever the reader takes from it?
Without going into specifics, I will say that all of these thoughts crossed my mind as I read the novel. I know that this is not specifically what it was referring to since a lot of the more modern changes came after it was written, but consider the phone booth. It is something that no longer exists except in the memory of adults. When we die, it will be nothing but a distant item in old photographs or films. No actual phone booths will exist, and eventually, even the idea of a phone booth will be gone from the collective memory.
A more in-your-face theme of the novel is that of being forced into a state where the government controls the people’s minds and memories. Think of Russia and China, which outlawed certain aspects of their history, rewriting history in the ideals that they value and deleting those that don’t follow their political doctrine. The destruction of free speech and religion. The Memory Police is more or less a better and more in-depth description of what occurred in George Orwell’s 1984.
One of the things I liked most about this novel was how many different meanings you can find. It was fun to ponder the book’s events and how my thoughts changed as the events unfolded.
I would recommend this novel if you are looking for something deep. It isn’t going to leave you feeling perky at the end. But if you want something that might challenge your thoughts about life, then this is a good choice. You can find it on Amazon HERE (purchase it using this link to support the blog)!
Til the next novel,
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi