The Memory Police

Finalist, National Book Awards 2019 for Translated Literature

ISBN 9781101870600
Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House |
Yoko Ogawa

Yoko Ogawa has won every major Japanese literary award. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, and Zoetrope: All-Story. Her works include The Diving Pool, a collection of three novellas; The Housekeeper and the Professor; Hotel Iris; and Revenge. More about this author >

Stephen Snyder

Stephen Snyder (Chair) serves as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Language Schools at Middlebury College. He has translated works by Kenzaburō Ōe, Yu Miri, Natsuo Kirino, and Ryū Murakami, among others. More about this author >

Award Years

Award Status

Award Categories

From the publisher:

A haunting Orwellian novel about the terrors of state surveillance, from the acclaimed author of The Housekeeper and the Professor.

On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses—until things become much more serious. Most of the island’s inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power 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 woman who is struggling to maintain her career as a novelist discovers that her editor is in danger from the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him beneath her floorboards. As fear and loss close in around them, they cling to her writing as the last way of preserving the past.

A surreal, provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss, The Memory Police is a stunning new work from one of the most exciting contemporary authors writing in any language.

Judges Citation

In this haunting, atmospheric novel, Yoko Ogawa takes us to an unnamed island where things are vanishing: photographs, flowers, calendars, birds. In the wake of each disappearance, people's memories of the objects also fade. Ogawa alternates between the cold alienation of an outside world growing ever bleaker, and moments of quiet tenderness, revealing striking images of a world constantly at the brink of loss. In Stephen Snyder’s skilled translation, Ogawa delivers a true fable for our times.