“Those Impressionists,” she said, “they certainly knew about color. And about light and shade. Different kinds of shade: thinner shadows that let the light through, and heavier, denser ones. And it’s as if Monet made this garden to show the world how he saw colors. How he saw their power, their potential, and their purpose. I think he wanted to show that the world is color. That life itself is color. That if we can just see the colors, really see them, life will be beautiful. And meaningful. Because beauty has a value of its own, that”s how I see it anyway.” – p. 37
“People who read books,’ he went on, “tend to be dispensable. Extremely.” – p. 48
Useful or dispensable? A life of choice or no choice? And what if your own choices led you to have to give of your own body to the ‘needed’ until your ‘final donation’?
I love dystopian fiction, and this book was no exception. It reminded me quite a bit of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, so if you enjoyed that book, you’ll probably like this one as well. Reading books like this is always a reminder of the ways society could go horribly wrong, and sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if parts of the book actually do come to pass someday.
Dorrit, age 50, has reached an age where she is now considered dispensable because she has no children or parents to take care of and because she is a writer, which is considered an unessential occupation. The dispensables in The Unit are provided for in every way, a nice apartment, exercise facilities, and entertainment venues, etc. Except that they are monitored 24/7, and of course, they may never leave The Unit. Dorrit makes great friends here, and in some ways her life is better than when she was on the outside, but, obviously, her life and her body are not her own. She is essentially a commodity of the State.
The book raises some excellent ethical questions. Is a person’s life itself precious and valuable, or is it only what they can contribute to society that is deemed worthwhile? My view will always be the former.
How obtained: I checked this book out from my local library.
2006 (Swedish), 2009 for the English translation; 268 pp.