The term dystopia has recently acquired a popularity to which television is no stranger. Series proliferate in which the future, blacker than ever, is unceremoniously swept away by climate change, oil consumption, totalitarian ideologies, genetic experiments, the long etcetera that comes after. At the beginning of a century like ours, which is equivalent to the end of all the others, with the set of certainties that up until now sustained us settled in the stock market and a succession of seismic changes on the horizon, the literature that exploits uncertainty and fear is more fashionable than ever. Orwell, Huxley and Bradburythey were the canonical references until now, to which Margaret Atwood has recently joined , but it is enough to approach any specialized channel or look at the shelves of speculative fiction to verify that the progeny in which they are perpetuated is broad and robust.
Advertisers selling Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa ‘s latest title , want to put a bell on it, declaring that it also belongs to the same current, and by doing so they are probably making a mistake. It can be admitted, yes, that the novel is to a certain extent cataloged as such; if it weren’t for the fact that the label runs the risk of suffocating its own originality and how much of the unusual it has to offer the reader.
To begin with, this is a typical Ogawa novel, not at all unfamiliar to trained viewers. She is a Japanese from 1962, she is the author of some powerful stories that, without fully evaluating the implications of the adjective, comfortably accept the qualification of strangers. Focused on the atmosphere, between dreamlike and grotesque, in which her characters move, and in the pathological attention to detail that denotes the obsession, the author is known in Spain through several of her excellent previous novels published by Funambulista, among others My Sister’s Pregnancy (2006) and The teacher’s favorite formula (2008). An intimate, microscopic universe, made up of minuscule gestures and broad phrases, presents us with situations that one never knows how they will end, and in which the maintenance of the action matters less than the details that accompany it. All of this, which will be obvious to anyone who has seen the two titles I mention, applies in the same way to The Memory Police.
Maybe, but not everything and not only. If we accept the term, we would find ourselves facing a rather unusual dystopia, which does not take place in any future, near or far, and, above all, which is totally unconcerned about the political implications of what it relates. There is no complaint here, there is no protest or lamentation, nothing about the fear of the future to which we are headed or the cry to stop the march. The dictatorial state that Ogawa imagines seems more like an excuse or backdrop than the real object of his disquisitions: less a prophecy than a supplementary illustration of what he is really concerned with, which are images of annihilation.Well, that is what it is all about in the first place, images: the images of the world that are pieces that are treasured in the showcases of our memory. In one of the climactic moments of the novel, the protagonist, a writer, faced with the devastating oblivion of what it means to write, tries to pick up the thread of her inspiration by placing in front of her old objects that belonged to her mother and striving to recover the stamps or scents that awaken in your sleeping mind. In order to be, each one of us needs to remember who or what he is, take advantage of the clothes and utensils and the photographs that serve as a mirror: the inevitable Proust cupcake.
It may be, but not everything and not only. There is no complaint here, protest or regret
The action of The Memory Police, which refers more to Kafka than to Orwell, takes place on an indefinite island in a nameless sea, at a time that does not appear in any chronology. Without us knowing why, its inhabitants suffer from the periodic loss of components of their lives, what they call absences, and that overnight leave them without the possibility of recognizing birds, candies, roses, boats or books. The protagonist, whose name we also ignore, has inherited from her mother some of those forbidden objects that promise to bring her waves of the past, always hidden from the fearsome memory police, for whom oblivion is an obligation of social welfare.The plot then becomes more complicated with lateral characters who have to hide behind shelters or police records by treachery, or with the introduction, in the form of a subplot, of the novel that the protagonist writes in turn, whose interest sometimes exceeds that of the novel itself. main story, and in which a typing student faces the mysterious spell put to her by her teacher.
A detailed and precious metaphor of alienation, of Alzheimer’s, of the progressive dehumanization of society, of the ultimate triumph of death, The Memory Police far transcends the framework of gender, of any gender, and places us, crudely and lyricism, before a fundamental truth that we must never ignore: that we are nothing but the memories that constitute us,the fragile album of landscapes and faces that time inevitably crumbles as it progresses.