By Ninni Holmqvist
Imagine a nation in which – if you haven’t had children by a certain age – you are taken to the Reserve Biotissue Unit and subjected to all kinds of medical and psychological experiments, while waiting to have your organs harvested, one by one, for the “needed” citizens in the outside world …
When Dorrit Wegner turned fifty, the government transferred her to a state-of-the-art facility where she can live out her days in comfort. Her apartment is furnished to her tastes, her meals expertly served, and all at the very reasonable non-negotiable price of one cardiopulmonary system. Once an outsider without family, derided by a society bent on productivity, Dorrit finds within The Unit the company of kindred spirits and a dignity conferred by ‘use’ in medical tests. But when Dorrit also finds love, her peaceful submission is blown apart and she must fight to escape before her ‘final donation’.
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 novel of humor, sorrow, and rage about love, the close bonds of friendship, and about a cynical, utilitarian way of thinking disguised as care. A chilling and empathetic debut.
ABOUT THE BOOK
First published by Norstedts, 2006
RIGHTS SOLD TO
China, Hunan People’s Publishing House
The Netherlands, Ambo Anthos
Norway, Cappelen Damm
Serbia, Carobna Knijga
US, Other Press
I know some of you would be as riveted by The Unit as I was.
Margaret Atwood, Twitter
The New Yorker
Holmqvist’s spare prose interweaves The Unit’s pleasures and cruelties with exquisite matter-of-factness, so that readers actually begin to wonder: On balance, is life better as a pampered lab bunny or as a lonely indigent? But then she turns the screw, presenting a set of events so miraculous and abominable that they literally made me gasp.
The Washington Post
Ninni Holmqvist displays yet again her scope and that she once more stands out as one of the most gifted writers in the country.
The Unit in an artistic sense, too, is a unit, a closely connected whole where every little word contributes an entirely necessary bit of a fantastic, swarming puzzle of a novel. With this dystopia, black as night, Holmqvist definitely strides across from being an unusually talented short-story writer to a master of the novel. It wouldn’t surprise me if Enhet becomes one of the few – perhaps the only one – of this autumn’s Swedish novels that people will still be reading in 50 years.
This is one of the best books I’ve read over the past two years…Thought-provoking and emotionally-moving, The Unit is a book you’ll be discussing with others long after you’re done reading it.
The Orland Sentinel
Like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, this novel imagines a chilling dystopia: single, childless, mid-life women are considered dispensable.
Holmqvist handles her dystopia with muted, subtle care…Neither satirical nor polemical, The Unit manages to express a fair degree of moral outrage without ever moralizing.
Creepily profound and most provocative.
An exploration of female desire, human need, and the purpose of life.