Epidemin – The Epidemic

It’s election year in Sweden and the rising political star, Johan Svärd, has assumed power after a historic victory. The electoral pledge of the new Health Party: to eradicate the obesity epidemic.

Meanwhile, postdoc war-history student Landon is seeking refuge from political propaganda in the remote countryside. There he meets a neighbor, Helena, an overweight nurse who has lost her job due to the government’s new rules on employment. She’s been hiding from the authorities since her eight-year-old daughter was placed in a special class for the obese and the school nurse suggested her child should have lap-band surgery.

But where do all the other fat people go? And what is actually happening at the Health Party’s fat camps? When Helena suddenly disappears, Landon sets off to search for her. The quest turns into a scary journey through the ever-harsher Swedish social climate, where everything from the weight of the employees to the intake of carbohydrates is strictly controlled. Landon soon becomes aware of the threat that surrounds him, as the methods of the Health Party become more and more spine-chilling.

The Epidemic is a dark depiction of a future not far over the horizon where hysteria about diets and political propaganda have turned discrimination into the norm. This is a violent political allegory of rising right-wing extremism in Europe, and about prejudice and scapegoats, food addiction, and political personality cults. A scary vision of how discrimination becomes normalized and how easily we can be deceived.

First published by Albert Bonniers förlag, 2016

France, Actes Sud
Germany, Arctis / Atrium
Russia, Phantom Press
Spain, Ediciones B/Penguin Random House

I read Åsa Ericsdotter breathlessly, and had to struggle to put the book down.
Svenska Dagbladet

… well-written and unbearable suspense. I read the final third of the book in one hungry sitting, absorbed by Landon’s search for the kidnapped Helena and the truth.

Entertaining and horrifying read, absolutely thrilling.
Sveriges Radio Kultur

… stark and totally thrilling dystopia.
Sydsvenska Dagbladet

Perhaps the most terrifying thing about the novel is how much of the rhetoric is recognizable in the current political climate.  The Epidemic is fascinating as a thought experiment.  I devoured the 400 pages in what seemed like an instant.

It’s a real page-turner with nerve, and I hardly dared to put the book down. And, above all, it is an important warning sign at a time when health fascism has gone too far, as the politics described in the book are, unfortunately, not totally unthinkable.

Åsa Ericsdotter coldly deploys the nightmarish scenario (…), like an irrepressible gear, with all the dikes of democracy which jump in the process like a fetus. That does not preclude a criticism from the flame thrower.
Sabrina Champenois, LIBÉRATION.FR

A dystopia that holds up a distorting mirror to us and questions us about how we perceive “the other” in his difference.
Marc Rauscher (librairie Majuscule-Birmann), PAGE DES LIBRAIRES

It is undoubtedly a perfectly tense thriller of great emotional power. (…) this novel which stages the process of the disintegration of democracy, the shift towards a society of surveillance and mass control, the acquiescence of the population to the progressive restrictions of public freedoms in the name of health security, the the rise of rejection and hatred of the other as of the fascination for a leader, raises fascinating questions.
Michel Abescat, FRANCE INTER

The tension builds up as the chapters of this book struggle to let go.
Anne-Sophie Hache, LA VOIX DU NORD

Åsa Ericsdotter’s talent is to avoid the fable genre and to give the novel frightening realism. The mechanisms of the establishment of this totalitarianism of well-being are described with a subtlety which makes the whole perfectly credible.
Jérôme Leroy, CAUSEUR

The Epidemic by Åsa Ericsdotter is a huge blow to the liver, a cry of alarm (…). It is a great essay on the rise of totalitarianism and on how the population can allow an increasingly aggressive policy to be carried out against a part of it.

The Epidemic is also a breathtaking thriller, with chiseled writing and also a beautiful story of love and hate. A treat to devour without putting on an ounce .
Pierrick Faye, LES ECHOS.FR

It’s as scary as it can be and told in a compelling and effective way.
Sylvie Sagnes, ONLALU.COM