Shortlisted for the 2020 International Booker Prize. A beautiful, haunting and provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss from Yoko Ogawa, one of Japan’s greatest writers. Translated by Stephen Snyder.

Hat, ribbon, bird, rose. To the people on the island, a disappeared thing no longer has any meaning. It can be burned in the garden, thrown in the river or handed over to the Memory Police. Soon enough, the island forgets it ever existed. When a novelist discovers her editor is in danger of being detained by the Memory Police, she desperately wants to save him. For some reason, he doesn’t forget, and it becomes increasingly difficult for him to hide his memories. Who knows what will vanish next?

The 2020 International Booker Prize
Published by
Harvill Secker
Publication date

Buy the book

We benefit financially from any purchases you make when using the ‘Buy the book’ links.

Yoko Ogawa

Yoko Ogawa

About the Author

Writer and novelist Yoko Ogawa has won every major Japanese literary award available.
More about Yoko Ogawa

Stephen Snyder

About the Translator

Stephen Snyder is a translator and professor of Japanese Studies at Middlebury College, Vermont, USA.
More about Stephen Snyder

What The Booker Prize Book Club said

‘It is hauntingly beautiful. I am a quintessential Westerner - a New Yorker - and reading this tale of the quiet acceptance of profound loss was an exercise in complete self control. On one level it was driving me completely crazy - why don’t they run? Build a boat? Rise up? 

But on another it was riveting; one becomes entranced by the disappearances and the juxtaposition of the one person who remembers trying to change the inexorable tide of loss. There’s incredible love - even with the distance of no names - and, as we see in the story within the story, the darkly awful ability to self-immolate.’ 

Peggy Trebmal, The Booker Prize Book Club

The Booker Prize Book Club