I’ve just finished reading The Memory Police, a novel by Yoko Ogawa.
It’s about an island where things disappear, and once they disappear their meaning is lost. When it is decided that an object and its meaning must be forgotten, it is disposed of or handed in to the Memory Police whose job it is to enforce disappearances. Memories are attached to things, and when the things go, so do the memories. Some things are burnt, others are thrown into the river.
Most people forget the objects and their meaning but some don’t, so they are made to disappear too.
A young novelist discovers that her editor is in danger of being taken away by the Memory Police. He is one of those who can’t forget and it’s getting harder for him to conceal his memories. She finds a place for him to hide and he goes into lockdown.
Around them more and more things are disappeared and more and more memories are lost. As they have no memory of the things that have gone, people quickly get used to their absence.
Only the editor, locked away in hiding, wonders what the world outside must be like, shorn of both objects and memories.
One day the young novelist wakes up to find that her left leg has disappeared. She hobbles out and finds that her neighbours’ left legs have gone too. ‘I guess I’m actually lucky,’ says one elderly neighbour, ‘half the arthritis in my knees is gone’.
Then right hands go, and one by one people’s body parts disappear until only voices are left. The Memory Police’s work is done because there’s no point hunting down people who are only voices.
Then the voices go too.