- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (3 April 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0571234933
- ISBN-13: 978-0571234936
- Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 1.2 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 576,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Sulphuric Acid Paperback – 3 Apr 2008
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"'It's always fun to take a journey inside her extraordinary Belgian brain.' Dan Rhodes"
Sulphuric Acid by Amélie Nothomb is a satirical take on reality TV, from the enfant terrible of French literature.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
'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.
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.Read more ›
I'm not philosophically inclined, nor am I especially interested in popular culture, but I have enjoyed several of Nothomb's previous novels so wanted to complete the (current) canon by reading this one. It is a contemporary fable with little by way of middle ground: the characters are sheep or saints. There is a lot of philosophical idealism and the `good' are also those with the loftiness of academia behind them to argue their points, while everybody else is portrayed with a vapid emptiness. Sadly, I wasn't very interested in it and found it a little on the pretentious side, although I did enjoy the ending. Like all Nothomb's novels, it is very short, so if you are slightly interested in the subject I recommend reading it, as whether you enjoy it or not, it doesn't take long to read...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Crazy Belgian sex bomb. Worth a read if you like wittily interpreted comments about our obsession with reality TV. A bit short in my opinion. Read morePublished on 19 July 2014 by Edward Nobes
not quite what i was expecting after i chose this book when reccomended by a friend. Interesting, but slightly depressing, sometimes a hard read if it isnt quite what you are... Read morePublished on 16 Jan. 2012 by Millyyy
A disappointment - given the enthusiasm of other Amazon reviewers and the other Nothomb books I have read (The Life of Hunger, Fear and Trembling), I had expected more. Read morePublished on 28 Aug. 2009 by William Jordan