I read Sulphric Acid by Amelie Nothomb some time ago, but have never got around to write a review. I have some mixed feelings about this book, so I'll do an interview-review sort of thing, answering to the questions I was asked in my Weekly Geeks #12 post.
Bybee asked: I really hated Nothomb's other book, The Book Of Proper Names, but can't help being curious about Sulphuric Acid. Is this a short novel as well? Does it plunge into absurdity? Does it have anything to do with science?
Yes, this is a short novel, too. And yes, it plunges into absurdity. But no, it has very little to do with science. It's about reality shows and television and contemporary society.
Book Zombie asked:The plot sounds truly bizarre but also seems to embody the way that our media is heading (wanting to see so much pain and suffering in order to make our lives seem more normal). Do you think that this book was written as a social satire of our current media? And why do you suppose this book was a best-seller in France, but not so much in North America?
Yes, I do think the book was written as a satire of our current media, but there is more than that. For those who are not familiar with the plot, Sulphuric Acid deals with the ultimate reality show: people are taken from the streets to take part, whether they want it or not, in Concentration (as in "concentration camp"). Some play the part of the prisoners, while others are the kapos. However, Nothomb's focus is not only the satire on reality-obsessed TV viewers, who enjoy being the witness to other people's pain. The author writes is mostly as a story of obsessions and relationships: the obsession of one of the kapos, Zdena, for one of the prisoners, CZ114 (alias Pannonique).
I suppose Nothomb is much more popular in France than in the US. First of all, she writes in French, so her books arrive in the US only through translation. Therefore, I guess in France she's so popular that every one of her books turns into a bestseller, while its' not the case in the US.
As I mentioned above, I have some mized feelings about this book. I enjoy Nothomb's plunges into absurdity and satire, but I feel this wasn't her best book at all. It has nothing of the sparkle and wit of The Character or Rain, or The Book of Proper Names. So I'm not sure I would recommend it to others.