Friday, March 9, 2012

Book Review: The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

The Unit by the Swedish author Ninni Holmqvist is a dystopian novel that describes a world born, one would dare say, out of a Kafkaesque nightmare.
     The principal protagonist in this story is Dorrit Weger, a fifty year old woman that obviously has nothing more to offer to society, since she produces nothing, and thus she’s admitted into a unit, where she’s to donate her genetic material before she, less than more peacefully, passes away. The unit is housed in a huge luxurious building that looks like a microcosm that only exists in the eyes of the people who work, live and die there.
     Dorrit has no idea how much time she’s left to live, since all the inhabitants are at the end of the day nothing more than human guinea pigs. The administrators of the unit, in exchange for all the luxuries that they provide to their subjects, use them for many, different, and more or less scary experiments. Thus one man can find himself all of a sudden been exposed to chemotherapy, another one can become at any given moment an organ donor, while some poor soul, though completely healthy could end up dead, so that the doctors can prove a point or put a theory to practice.
     The world that Dorrit sees when she arrives there looks colorful and bright, she feels like she’s living in a tropical island in the middle of winter. Time though, as one after the other her friends will start dying, will turn this paradise into a living hell, and then she’ll be left with no other option but to escape,
     Everyone is dispensable; this seems to be the mantra of the people running the unit, and she’s determined to prove them wrong. But will she make it?
     This is a novel that touches a lot of the sensitive issues of our times and of the ones to come. Maybe this world is nothing but a prelude of tomorrow’s bleak certainties, the author seems to suggest, and I’m not going to disagree with her. There’s darkness all around us already. Who’s to say that there isn’t more to come?
     If you like Kafka’s work you’ll surely love this book.

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