The Unit is a gripping exploration of a society in the throes of an experiment, in which the “dispensable” ones are convinced under gentle coercion of the importance of sacrificing for the “necessary” ones. Ninni Holmqvist has created a debut novel of humor, sorrow, and rage about love, the close bonds of friendship, and about a cynical, utilitarian way of thinking disguised as care.
Ninni Holmqvist: The Unit is a dystopia set in a near future. It is about people who don’t have any children or anyone else who loves them and need them, and who aren’t useful to the society in any other way either. These people are called “dispensable,” and they are picked up at their homes at a certain age (women at 50, men at 60) and taken to special units (“reservbanksenhet” in Swedish) for biological material, where they are supposed to serve the society through participating in various tests (like animal testing but made on people), but also, eventually, by donating organs to those of the society’s needed citizens—the ones who produce and raise children, the loved ones, the ones who contribute to the economic growth—who are afflicted with severe illnesses and need organs from healthy bodies to survive. Dorrit Weger, who just turned 50, is one of those dispensable. She is a writer, childless, quite poor, and lives alone with her dog. The story begins with her arrival at the unit, an establishment/institution she immediately finds a lot more comfortable and human and loving and beautiful than she ever could have expected.
Question: The Unit raises a number of complex—and sometimes disturbing—ethical questions. Do you see the novel as having a central moral theme?
Ninni Holmqvist: The book is above all written as a critique of society and the way political leaders today see everything in figures and numbers. But my aim was also to raise questions like: What is freedom? What is human dignity? How do we humans value our selves and each other? But The Unit is also very much a story about love (Dorrit meets the love of her life at the unit, a man called Johannes, and she also, miraculously, gets pregnant) and friendship and loyalty.
Question: Who did you write The Unit for? Did you have someone—personally, or in society—that you intended the story for?
Ninni Holmqvist: My intention was that it is for everyone. But I guess it might especially appeal to middle-aged single people, childless ones. But also people who are in or are close to other categories of “dispensable” people: disabled people for instance, long time unemployed persons, culture workers. And people who are critical of capitalism and economism. Perhaps also people who don’t mind being provoked.
Definitely a Scandinavian book translated into English. The narrative is detailed and almost formal. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Tracy Murray
Highly recommend this book. Was hard to put down as you wanted to find out what will happen.Published 4 months ago by Angelique
Five stars. Quick and easy read. Quickness because the plot pulls you in by coattails of curiosity. Easy due to the authors ability to spark sheer imagery with words, enticing one... Read morePublished 5 months ago by foxgrl
I wasn't sure whether I'd like this, given how many mixed reviews I saw before I took the plunge and actually bought this book. But wow, I was blown away. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod, author of the Seven Day Manuscript Machine and Writing the Bible for Kids
Here is a creepy concept set in a country known for its efficiency and the adoption of new ideas. The narrator seems so calm about her fate even though she has effectively been... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Nick Heyns
A good read, interesting concept, made me cry several times and at the end as well.Published 6 months ago by Anita
Enjoyed the book. Interesting premise, well written. Kept my attention. Fast read.Published 6 months ago by jd