Memory Police Summary & Study Guide

Yoko Ogawa
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Memory Police Summary & Study Guide Description

Memory Police Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa.

The following version of this book was sued to create this study guide: Ogawa, Yoko. The Memory Police, trans. Stephen Snyder. New York: Pantheon Books, 2019.

The novel takes place on an unnamed island. The island’s inhabitants live in one large town, and the town is ruthlessly controlled by an autocratic governing body called the Memory Police. Whenever the Memory Police outlaw a certain type of object, they are able to erase that type of object from the memories of the islanders. Some islanders are able to resist the Memory Police’s memory-erasing powers. The unnamed protagonist/narrator is an adult woman who lives by herself in a house and who works as a novelist. Her parents are both deceased. Her mother had the ability to retain memories, and so the Memory Police killed her. Most of the islanders are content simply to live in obedience of the Memory Police, as they have no ready means of resistance, and the islanders do not miss things that they cannot remember.

The narrator’s editor is a man referred to in the novel only as R. One day, R reveals to the narrator that he has the ability to retain memories. The Memory Police appear to suspect this fact about R. In order to protect R, the narrator enlists the help of a friend referred to only as the old man. In the past, the old man has been content simply to obey the orders of the memory Police. However, to help the narrator and R, the old man builds a secret room in the narrator’s basement, where they then hide R. A few days later, the old man is arrested by the Memory Police. The narrator is worried, but a few days later, the old man is released. He says that the MP suspect nothing about the old man and the narrator helping R, and that they interrogated the old man on a separate matter of which the old man had no knowledge.

R’s wife gives broth to her and R’s first child, and R hopes that he will be able to see his child someday soon. In the meantime, he continues editing the narrator’s new novel. The novel is about a woman whose voice is stolen by a man. The man then imprisons the woman in a room, where he repeatedly rapes her and forces her to do various menial tasks. The Memory Police continue to make things disappear. One winter, they make calendars disappear, and the town becomes stuck in a never-ending winter. Food begins to become increasingly scarce. One day, the Memory Police outlaw novels. R encourages the narrator to continue working on her novel in secret. The narrator obliges, but she has difficulty, as the memory Police have suppressed all of her memories pertaining to novels.

The narrator and the old man find several outlawed objects that the narrator’s mother apparently kept and hid. R encourages the narrator and the old man to practice remembering things that the Memory Police have erased from their memories. The narrator and the old man have limited success. One day, the old man receives a blow to the head during an earthquake, and he dies a few weeks later. At R’s urging, the narrator continues to work on her novel. The progress is very slow, but she eventually manages to complete it. One day, the Memory Police begin to make the islanders disappear, one body part at a time. Eventually, all of the islanders disappear, except for those like R who have a resistance to the Memory Police’s powers. It is ambiguous whether the Memory Police themselves have disappeared.

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