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Sulphuric Acid Paperback – 3 Apr 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (3 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571234933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571234936
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 571,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"'It's always fun to take a journey inside her extraordinary Belgian brain.' Dan Rhodes"

Book Description

Sulphuric Acid by Amélie Nothomb is a satirical take on reality TV, from the enfant terrible of French literature.


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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By JonW on 14 Sept. 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is an incredible novella. Think Albert Camus meets Primo Levi, writing about 'Big Brother'.

The book's very premise is so horrifying, so obscene that I stopped for about ten minutes on page 12 to decide whether to continue, or whether to fling it into the wastebin. But the latter simply wasn't an option.

But as a comment on humanity, and on certain aspects of the times in which we live, it is amazing.

One minor gripe: the UK publishers use a quote from Dan Rhodes (himself an excellent novellist) talking about reading Nothomb as being 'fun'. That's the last word I'd use to describe this piece, despite its overall cynicsm and the occasional moment of astonishingly black comedy.

An absolute must-read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. Fergus on 3 Dec. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Really more of a short story than a novel but one in which the author manages to cram more ideas into the 120 odd pages than some others manage in a whole series of books. First published in 2005 the subject matter of reality television is extremely modern but the feel of the story seems to owe more to the writing of the likes of George Orwell, Primo Levi and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

The initial concept is deliberately shocking and all to easy to believe but the writers real strength is in her ability to create such intense characters and situations with the minimum of words. You get very little information on the majority of the characters, in most cases you don't even get their names only their designated number, but they are all extremely recognisable.

The very shortness of the book is however where its main weakness lies. All these fantastic characters, ideas and possibilities just aren't developed and there is a certain disappointment associated with this. What you are left with however is a modern cautionary fable that is guaranteed to make you think.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Davywavy2 VINE VOICE on 25 Mar. 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The idea of 'Big Brother'-type shows developing a lust for blood to satiate the audience is one that has been done often enough - from "Battle Royale" to 2000ad's Judge Dredd it's a popular enough concept. Where Nothomb rises above most of the other uses of the idea is in her use of language. She is, quite simply, a fantastic writer who can sketch an immediately recognisable person or a situation in a very short sentence. This ability lends itself the power to write emotional sucker-punches in terse, immediate prose and given the subject matter of the novel that makes it very powerful indeed.
By turns a treatise upon reality TV, the power and motivations of the anonymous viewers of such programmes, and human love and redemption, 'Sulphuric Acid' is probably the best thing of Nothomb's I've read. I'd don't hand out 5-star reviews lightly (read my other reviews if you doubt me), but only when genuinely earned. An excellent - if short - novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Blandine Demailly on 3 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is the only Amélie Nothomb book I've ever read, so I can't really say whether it's better than her other books or not. I bought this book out of curiosity, because I'd seen Amélie Nothomb at a book signing in my hometown of Lille and wanted to finally find out what the big deal was about her.

'Acide Sulfurique' is disturbing to say the least, with a real-TV show based on concentration camps and candidates having to survive. I read it a long time ago, but I remember finishing it within an hour or so and even though I was not that impressed with Nothomb's writing, I found the topic interesting as far as our society is concerned. What we see on television is getting more and more obscene, and the human race never seems to learn its lesson. So could something so horrible ever happen? I think it is a thought-provoking book and it makes you question yourself and our world's ideology. And a book that makes you think can never be so bad.
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By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Sulphuric Acid is positively bubbling over with ideas.

A TV company has decided to recreate a concentration camp and populate it with prisoners. Every aspect of the camp is televised and the show tops the ratings.

It is never explained whether the prisoners have done anything to warrant selection for the camp but it is said that they were rounded up in raids. The names of the guards and the few named prisoners are from various European languages so there is no obvious attempt to portray distinct groups. And the guards are drawn from successful applicants from the general public.

At first, we see a recreation of the Zimbardo experiment where some students are designated prisoners and some as guards. We see bizarre morality systems developing which are used by participants to justify the obvious injustice of the situation. On the one hand this is abstract but on the other hand, there appear to be direct parallels to some of the famous WW2 stories.

But as the story develops, the Big Brother elements start to weigh more heavily - and that is Big Brother the TV show, not Big Brother the Orwellian character. Kapo Zdena, the most prominent guard, has a clear focus on how she wants to use the programme to improve her popularity and standing in the outside world. Meanwhile, Pannonique, the most prominent prisoner decides to try to thwart the camp by refusing to show any emotion in the hope of stifling the televisual experience. But as so often happens on these reality TV programmes, the outcome is not what was intended. Kapo Zdena tries to appear intelligent but ends up being reviled - and she knows it. Pannonique ends up being idolised - but has no access to the outside world so doesn't have confirmation of this.
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