Book Review: The memory Police by Yōko Ogawa

April 27, 2023


The Memory Police (密やかな結晶) by Yōko Ogawa (translated by Stephen Snyder) takes placed on an island where the government has the power to make things disappear, and people forget about them. Ms. Ogaway (小川 洋子) is a Japanese writer who has won every major Japanese literary award.

  • 288 pages
  • Publisher ‏ : Vintage
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : 1784700444

Book Review: The memory Police by Yōko Ogawa
My rat­ing for The Memory Police5
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More Books by Yōko Ogawa*
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This was a strange, but very inventive novel where many things remain unexplained. Things disappear, and so do their memories, a n organization known as The Memory Police are tasked with enforcing the compliance of removing the objects and erasing their memories out of existence. Those who still remember, we don’t know why but believe it’s a genetic “fault”, are taken and studies.

The unnamed narrator finds out that her editor, R, is one of those who remember things, like her mother. She decides to help R hide and sets up a secret room for him. R still encourages the narrator to continue writing her novel, in which typists lose their voice to the typewriter.

Yōko Ogawa wrote a book about people living in an uncertain world, where tomorrow something that you took for a fact no longer exists. She talks about how people cope with small and large changes. The worst part about this world, is that people can no longer rely on memories. This is something which we know but refuse to acknowledge in such cases as eyewitness accounts, or even growing older.

There’s a bigger picture of course. Across centuries people were forced to give up and forget their language, possessions, names, and finally their lives.

The book movies at a leisurely pace, we never actually find out why the island exists. Is it a sinister experiment? Genocide? A ghetto?

That’s one of beauties of the book, many can conjure up associations themselves – like memories. For me, the antagonists reminded me of the Nazis, for others, maybe it would be Mao’s China, Darfur, or any other event where people are being erased.
Sadly, we have too many to pick from.


The story takes place on an unnamed island, where objects start to disappear. The island’s population’s minds are slowly manipulated to forget those objects and live without them.

Few of the island’s residents are not affected and can remember the forgotten objects. However, they constantly live in fear of the Memory Police who will take them away to an unknown future.

Buy The Memory Police from*
More Books by Yōko Ogawa*
More Books Translated by Stephen Snyder*

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer:I bought this book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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