The time came when the suffering of others was not enough for them; they needed the spectacle of it too” –Acide Sulfurique (Sulphuric Acid) – Amélie Nothomb
Initial thoughts: Isn’t it exciting to dive into a novel of which you know nothing about save for its title, author and cover image? When I picked up Acide Sulfurique (translated: Sulphuric Acid) from the sparsely filled shelves of the French section of my local library, I was struck by the cover image. The cover image features a butterfly that flew into a glass and broke its wing. I cannot say why I am so intrigued by this cover image. Perhaps it is because it is unusual and unlikely, almost surreal. There is something unsettling about this image. And yet, in such a calamity, a disturbing image can become beautiful.
Acide sulfurique by Amélie Nothomb
Some time in the future, audiences have tired of traditional reality television shows. One channel decides to try something new and ‘Concentration’ – the reality television death camp – is born.
Participants for the show are rounded up and loaded onto cattle trucks, among them the beautiful young woman Pannonique. When Pannonique is delivered to the death camp and the cameras are turned on, she unknowingly becomes a media star, but she soon understands that her situation is all too real . . .
A huge bestseller in Nothomb’s adopted France, Sulphuric Acid is a blackly funny, shocking and provocative satire on our modern obsession with reality television and celebrity.
One day, out of nowhere, the lovely Pannonique is pulled of the streets at random and lands a role as a participant on a new reality television show called “Concentration.” In this camp, participants are prisoners subjected to torture, dehumanization and even… death at random, all in the name of entertainment. Pannonique is stripped of her identity, including her name, and she is reborn as CKZ 114. One of the guards of “Concentration,” Zdena, is desperate to uncover CKZ 114’s real name, and discover the thoughts behind her expressionless demeanour. Meanwhile, spectators are disgusted by this new television show. But… they can’t stop watching. Continue reading