The Unit

from 2009


There is a book you should read that odds are you have never heard of.  It is called “The Unit” and is written by Ninni Holmquist.  It is a quiet, but important masterpiece.

It is a novel set some time in the future- seemingly in a Scandinavian country.  The population has freely decided that some people are worthwhile and some are not.  They are dispensable.  They are the ones who no longer contribute to society.  In the book it is any female over 50 unmarried and without children.  It is any male over 60 unmarried and without children.

It is a book about Dorritt Weger.  She has just turned 50 and has been turned down by a man she was having an affair with.  He says he “might love her” but he doesnt think so.  She goes to the Second Reserve Unit for Biological Material.  There she is to live out her life while being expected to take part in all kind of experiments and organ donations until finally she makes her “final donation.”

One of the eeriest part of the book is how “kindly” she is treated there.  Her keepers see themselves as doing their humanitarian duty and after all Dorrit and her friends are “dispensable” and they can finish their lives by being a service to the people who count.  It is a scary book about what so called “free people” can be convinced to do in the name of science and humanitarianism.  I urge you to read it.

The book can be seen as an allegory for many things, but I cant help but see it in light of mental health.  It shows what happens when science becomes more about control and less about knowledge.  It shows how people can be given labels that mean they are dispensable and those labels end up defining the way others treat them and what society expects of them.  It shows how easily we come to believe that people are what we call them.  And perhaps it shows most clearly that the greatest threat to us it not some  dictator or hate monger.  It is each other caught up in what is “scientifically true.”  And it shows in the actions of one person who tries to help Dorritt that we are also each others greatest hope.

Read this book.  It is a book both about what we can become and what we are.  Read this book.


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