By the author of The Housekeeper and the Professor, Hotel Iris, Revenge, The Diving Pool, etc, this is a 1994 dystopian novel which is compared to Nineteen Eighty Four all over the cover, but is more clearly similar to Fahrenheit 451 for me. The method of control in this island society is the disappearing of words and memories associated with objects, concepts, people, and even professions. Our narrator is a novelist living on the island who is positioned uniquely because her father, an ornithologist, was one of the society’s first victims as “birds” became an early disappeared idea. Her mother, on the other hand, collected the objects as they were disappeared in order to hold on them.
Both of these figures lead to the introduction of the Memory Police, the enforcement wing of the society. There’s a resistance, there’s someone who still remembers, and there’s the kinds of things we associate with these kinds of novels. What is compelling about this novel is the tone and the ideas about words and language.
So while a lot of the world is slowly barreling toward different forms of surveillance and authoritarianism, I think the concept of cultural memory and loss in these realms are something that is important to keep in mind (so to speak). So thinking about what is lost in language and culture, and what is saved through language, books, and other permanent forms of culture is more salient to me. Given that Japan has had three distinct and significant politico-cultural regimes in the 20th century alone, while the US hasn’t had a dramatic shift in almost three hundred years, these are lessons to keep in mind for Americans in the relatively near future.