Book review of The Memory Police
By Yoko Agawa
How do I even begin to review this book, The Memory Police? Shall I begin with the beginning, or shall I talk about the ending, which was no ending at all, only a beginning of many beginnings that were to come. Or shall I talk about how unsettled I had become while and post reading this book? And you’d wonder Why? Well, for me this book was a metaphor of life and death. It reminded me of all the people, who one after another left me and embarked on a journey beyond death. Leaving me with myriads of memories – happy or otherwise – came crashing into each other, even though it didn’t talk about the happy times or the sad days of the novelist. No. It talked about disappearances.
Disappearances – Birds, books, boats, roses, and maps are among the objects that “disappeared” – that kept happening in her life and that of the many residents of that little Island and then, forgotten forever. And those who remembered, disappeared themselves, leaving only memories behind.
Slowly, the life on the Island becomes macabre, as the disappearances accelerates, the now turns to then, and then turns to nothing. And all of a sudden a realization dawned on me that life in the end is nothing but a mere disappearance and the memory of it scrubbed clean over time.
I was shaken and blown away by the explosion created by Ogawa’s quiet, melancholic yet graceful writing that filled up all the empty spaces in my mind with a wistful, mournful, but moving short sentences. I am glad that the author doesn’t explain everything to the readers. She leaves it for us to decipher the meaning.
“The meaning isn’t important. What matters is the story hidden deep in the words. You’re at the point now where you’re trying to extract that story. Your soul is trying to bring back the things it lost in the disappearances.”
In the end, there was nothing left, but a lump in my throat; trying to free itself through my eyes….
Yōko Ogawa’s The Memory Police was first published in Japan in 1994 and intricately translated by Stephen. Not for a moment, did I think that the book was loosely translated. No. For me The Memory Police, turned out to be a work of art in every aspect.